AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Hospitals in rural communities across America are facing continual uncertainty. In the past nine years, an average of about ten hospitals per year closed in rural areas, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. The Medical College of Georgia has been working with The Georgia College of Emergency Physicians to combat the issue by hosting a conference every year to train physicians from all over in emergency practices.
20 doctors volunteered to teach at the Fourth Rural Emergency Practice Conference. Dr. Matt Lyon said, “Our rural doctors in our state having the best skills is important for all populations. There are more rural hospitals than urban hospitals, so we have to reach out to those hospitals to make sure they’re providing accurate care to those rural populations."
150 practitioners from all over the United States came to hone the skills they already have while learning new ones. Bill Benz, who came to the conference for a third time, said, “It’s quality topics and quality speakers too. I’m learning something new every single time.”
The focus is high risk, low volume procedures. Dr. Lyon explained, “Those are procedures that don’t come around very often, but when you have to do the procedure you have to perform it right then, because someone’s life might depend on it.” For Benz, a physician assistant in two emergency rooms, the topics covered are extremely important. He said the conference is always a “big help.”
For under developed areas, these are the types of procedures that might not be available. That’s a big problem for the U.S., as the majority of the country is rural. Dr. Lyon said, "There’s a lot of hospitals, but it’s a resource desert. They don’t often have physicians trained to work in emergency medicine, but they are working in an emergency department.”
The conference takes the medical professionals out of the classroom, and gives them hands-on practice as well. Matthew Anderson, a current student, said, “For other places I’ve been, it’s really hard to get your hands dirty, so it’s nice to have time with the faculty one-on-one to get that teaching experience.” Attendees say the conference is invaluable and unlike others. Benz added, “You get a lot in a two-day weekend conference.”
At the end of the day, the goal is to educate medical professionals so people everywhere have one less thing to worry about in an emergency. In the next years, MCG staff hope the conference will continue to grow.