A couple of weeks ago Michael and I covered the Governor’s press conference at UMKC when he announced the Caring for Missourians initiative to train qualified healthcare workers to serve the citizens of our underserved state. After the press event, I contacted the newspaper that brings the news to my home town and wrote up an article for them to explain what the Governor was doing and why it was important and why it mattered to our area of the state:
Governor Jay Nixon held a press conference at the UMKC School of Nursing last Thursday, May 28 to announce Caring for Missourians, a $40 million state initiative to train more than 900 additional health care professionals in Missouri’s public universities and community colleges every year.
Ninety-five of Missouri’s 114 counties are officially considered “health care shortage areas,” which means that the residents lack access to primary and preventive care, as well as mental health services and dental care – and Mercer County is one of the neediest, lacking an adequate number of providers to serve the population. Missouri hospitals are facing severe shortages of qualified healthcare workers from across the spectrum, with a 7% shortfall in registered nurses and medical laboratory professionals alone, and even more severe shortages in physical, speech and occupational therapy.
Governor Nixon was asked in the UMKC press conference whether the program will cover tuition and training costs for students who want to pursue medical careers, and if students would be required to stay in Missouri after they graduate. The Governor answered that at this point both answers are “no” but that could change in the future, and if so the two elements will likely be tied together, and suggested that perhaps a program that will forgive student loans for students who agree to work in an underserved area for a proscribed amount of time. Missouri already has a working model to base such a program on. The PRIMO (Primary Care Resource Initiative for Missouri) program has successfully trained physicians to be doctors in rural and underserved areas for decades.
Under Caring for Missourians, the public institutions of higher learning are slated to receive grants during the coming fiscal year which starts July 1. The state is not placing a lot of strings on the money. Instead, the schools are responsible for developing the specific plans to maximize the benefits to fit their particular situation, taking into consideration the capacity of their programs and the availability of healthcare educators. They are also responsible for setting their own accountability goals.
North Central Missouri College in Trenton will receive $304,333 to expand enrollment and improve facilities on campus to enhance the educational experience of the students and better prepare them to step into their careers after graduation. In addition to training an additional 50 Registered Nurses over the next two years, NCMC will also use the money to expand enrollment in the physical and occupational therapy programs and improve the facilities to accommodate the extra students. NCMC President Dr. Neil Nuttall said that the school is thrilled to have the opportunity that the grant presents and they are encouraged by the funding, and he hopes that the program will be continued after the initial grant provision sunsets in two years.
Since every doctor that has served that county in the last three decades has been educated thanks to the PRIMO program, I naturally assumed that the local paper would care about a program that exists because the Governor sees a need that affects people statewide, but especially affects rural areas that lack healthcare providers, and I foolishly thought that ideology would take a back seat.
Sadly, no. I failed to remember the most important part…the Governor who cooked this up is a Democrat.
I was told a couple of days later that they would not be using it because it didn’t address Mercer County specifically enough. (Poor planning on my part that they put the community college in Trenton, one county south, I guess. Never mind that every nurse in Mercer County came through the ADN program at North Central.)
I didn’t argue. I know better. The Princeton Post-Telegraph is a teeny-tiny little wingnut publication, and frankly I get a hell of a lot more eyeballs on the web than anything they ever print on dead trees.
But that isn’t the point.
The point is, this paper isn’t balanced and doesn’t offer news so much as ideology. The publisher can’t see his way clear to publish a genuine article on a program that will affect his immediate readers, presumably because it doesn’t fit with his “government doesn’t work” personal philosophy – yet every single week he sees fit to run a column written by a glibertarian wingnut who is some sort of professor at Garden Grove College somewhere in Pennsylvania, because this fellow runs down government and touts self-reliance and rugged individualism and promotes ‘tea parties’ – to an impoverished audience that eats it up with a spoon and turns out en masse for a ‘tea party’ on tax day – presumably to protest the refunds that they all get because they are dirt-damned-poor, while simultaneously getting their utilities from rural cooperatives.