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​Hettinger’s West River Health Services

Letters to the Editor | January 15th, 2023

To the editor:

After my first week as a Representative in the North Dakota legislature, I found myself spending the weekend with an IV in my arm at the hospital in Hettinger. It wasn’t the legislature’s fault.

Not feeling well while visiting my son’s family in Bowman, I came to Hettinger’s West River Health Services clinic-- 40 miles away and open on a Saturday. From the minute I walked in the door, my medical treatment was equal to any I’ve previously had, which includes Mayo, Essentia and Sanford.

In session last week, I had the honor of serving with dedicated legislators on two committees. We absorbed an enormous amount of information from state department heads about their priorities and needs.

But, I learned an equal amount this weekend at the community hospital in Hettinger.

I learned that UND’s medical school partners with the clinic, providing four residents every year to train in family medicine. Dr. Golani, a resident, treated me, along with Dr. Kenney, the program supervisor. The surgeon, Dr. Andres, is a product of UND’s program to help keep rural medicine ticking. I cannot say enough about their knowledge, professionalism, and compassion.

But the fabric of community healthcare in North Dakota is tenuous. Dr. Kenney is leaving to practice in Oklahoma. One CNA from Tennessee is here on a three-month contract, six med techs from the Philippines are here on three-year contracts, and RNs come from an array of little towns for their 12-hour shifts.

Pulling on any of the threads that hold this healthcare facility together causes a ripple effect, impacting not just the town, but county, region and our state.

And yet…last week, some legislators introduced an abortion bill. The bill interferes with a doctor’s ability to treat patients according to the best medical standards. The bill puts fear into health care workers.

With over 4,000 unfilled health-care jobs in our state, government interference won’t inspire people to apply. To the contrary, health care workers will choose to work where they don’t need to consult an attorney before providing treatment. And no doctor wants to practice in a state where the best treatment for their patient is limited by a legislature with no medical training.

The Hettinger doctors didn’t consult the legislature to treat me—and no doctor treating any patient should ever have to.

Our legislature is scaring away healthcare workers that we desperately need. If you care, contact your representative at ndlegis.gov/assembly.

Rep. Liz Conmy

ND House, Dist. 11, Fargo

quamconmy@gmail.com

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