News Columns & Blogs

Rural health clinics offer quality care

Perception is in the eye of the beholder. Apologies for starting today’s column with a cliche, but I know of no better phrase to describe one of Manatee County Rural Health Services’ biggest problems — many people who have never set foot inside any of Rural Health’s 17 community clinics have the misguided perception that they deliver substandard care.

Well, this week’s announcement that Rural Health received the largest stimulus grant — $1.2 million — among Florida’s 45 federally sanctioned community health clinic networks proves those perceptions wrong. In terms of people served and services offered, Rural Health, based in Manatee County, is the largest community clinic network in the Southeastern United States.

Rural Health’s million dollar-plus grant was awarded because the local network, which serves Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties, has seen one of the largest increases in number of patients served. Last year Rural Health doctors and staff saw a total of 81,448 people who made 358,151 visits to network clinics. Rural Health obstetricians deliver almost all of the babies born in Manatee County.

Most impressive, Rural Health, unlike many community clinics, offers a full continuum of care from family doctors to internists to specialists in 14 different areas. Its mission is to deliver quality care to all regardless of ability to pay.

Under the leadership of Mickey Presha, the clinics have been able to deliver on this promise because Rural Health is committed to becoming the provider of choice for all, including those who have medical coverage that helps to provide the resources to extend the continuum of care to those who lack insurance or have low income.

As to quality, I have met many people who choose to go to Rural Health because of the doctors on staff.

People like Elizabeth M. Sullivan, who goes to Rural Health to see podiatrist Monica Holmes.

“Dr. Holmes is excellent,” Sullivan wrote in an e-mail. “I would not use anyone else except her. Even if I had insurance, I would go to her. People who do not have insurance should not fear about using these places.”

The point being, Rural Health plays a vital role in our community by providing quality, affordable health care. It’s time people let go of the stigma that keeps them from going through the door. For more information on Rural Health, visit the Web site at or call (866) 438-2273.

Donna Wright, health and social services reporter, can be reached at 745-7049.