Addressing the Need for Rural Healthcare
Electric cooperatives are helping rural healthcare facilities and first responders overcome challenges not seen in urban areasBy Don Gatton
Electric cooperatives power one in eight Americans — that’s 42 million people, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly. While our goal always is to provide you with safe, reliable power at an affordable price, we are also committed to supporting our local communities. Concern for Community is not just a guiding cooperative principle to display on the wall; it’s at the heart of everything we do.
Rural communities are the foundation of electric cooperatives, but the unfortunate reality is that rural healthcare faces challenges not seen in urban areas. We have fewer physicians and limited access to specialized care. As a result, rural Americans are at greater risk of dying from potentially preventable diseases like heart disease and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That needs to change. We want our rural citizens to have access to the same quality of care found in more densely populated areas.
Electric cooperatives from all over North Carolina are helping to bridge that gap by providing community donations, as well as federal grants and zero-interest loans to organizations in need. For example, with assistance from Four County EMC’s member-funded Operation Round-Up TRUST program, a center specializing in treating addiction problems is able to make critical repairs to its residential facilities. Hospice care centers and counseling facilities can continue to provide services to those in need, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. With collaboration between Operation Round-Up and volunteer groups, wheelchair-accessible ramps have been built, allowing members with disabilities to maintain independent lives.
Electric co-ops are supporting even larger healthcare and first responder needs through a U.S. Department of Agriculture resource called the Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant (REDLG) program. The REDLG program provides rural utilities with grants and zero-interest loans to directly fund local projects that create and retain employment in the communities they serve. Since 2015, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have facilitated more than $35 million in USDA financing to first responders and healthcare facilities that serve rural communities.
Bladen Healthcare, LLC, through a zero-interest REDLG loan provided by Four County EMC, expanded an outpatient medical center, enabling the facility to serve more patients and provide specialized services not offered before. Through a similar zero-interest loan, Pender EMS & Fire was able to purchase much-needed ambulances, 911 vehicles, and other equipment necessary to serve the community.
Through these endeavors and others such as scholarships, teacher grants, and youth programs, your electric cooperative is committed to improving the quality of life for co-op members. We are purpose-driven and community-focused yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
About the AuthorDon Gatton is CEO for Burgaw-based Four County EMC.
Cooperatives lend a helping hand