Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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WILLMAR, Minn. — Estrella Paxtor Lopez sat motionless in the dental chair, a perfect patient. Dental student Nick Schulte and dental assistant Sara Enderle worked on her teeth with nary a problem. It was a Friday pediatric day at the Rice Regional Dental Clinic in Willmar, a rare service that brings dental work to rural Minnesota. Most counties outside the Twin Cities have too few dentists available, according to medical leaders. And with the average age of Minnesota dentists reaching 56, increasing retirements are expected in the near future.
ELY, Minn. — Angie Lundsten was thrilled. The Hayward, Wis., woman sat in her local medical clinic telling Dr. Stephen Park she had lost 15 pounds in the past month. "I have struggled with my weight a lot," she said, but after trying two other doctors, she said she is on the right track with Park.
Editor's note: This is one of several stories about what is called a rural Minnesota health care crisis. Primary-care doctors, long the cornerstone of rural America's medical community, are becoming increasingly hard to lure. Interviews with health care leaders across Minnesota showed a combination of factors adding up to a medical doctor shortage. The shortage of primary-care physicians is everywhere, but more acute in rural areas. A lack of specialists is especially felt outside the Twin Cities.
Editor's note: This is one of several stories about what is called a rural Minnesota health care crisis. A mentally ill person should not be treated for the disease in an emergency room. Or sitting in a jail. But that is what often happens in rural Minnesota, where there are not enough health care professionals such as psychiatrists to treat them. And there are not enough psychiatric hospital beds even if the professionals were available.
Editor's note: This is one of several stories about what is called a rural Minnesota health care crisis. BIGFORK, Minn. — Small-town hospitals and clinics may not have all the bells and whistles of their big-city counterparts, but they offer something patients often cannot find in the cities: quarterbacks. "You have a quarterback here," said Dr. Heidi Korstad, sitting in the cafeteria of Bigfork Valley, a sprawling medical complex of hospital, clinic, nursing home and other facilities in a town that falls short of 500 population.
BRAINERD, Minn. — Howard Cronquist baled hay the other day, and also fit in some time to work on one of his farm buildings. That may not be big news for many farmers, but it is for him. Fifteen months ago, the rural Brainerd man suffered what was described as a major stroke. He and his wife, Sharon, credit his recovery to a combination of his hometown hospital and a Twin Cities neurologist stroke expert being in the emergency room via video to help local health care professionals.
ST. PAUL—Taxpayers will give 24,000 fellow Minnesota residents $8 million for working in Wisconsin. A new law provides Minnesotans tax credits beginning because income taxes they owe to Wisconsin for working there are higher than if they worked in their home state. On agreement between the states, known as tax reciprocity, used to do the same, with Wisconsin footing the bill. The tax credit "will help these workers keep more of their hard-earned money," Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota's minimum wage workers will receive a 15-cent-per-hour bump on Jan. 1. The state Department of Labor and Industry decided that is the size of the state's first automatic minimum wage increase. That will bring the current $9.50 hourly wage to $9.65 for more than 250,000 workers.
Ann Daley needs to know the "full skinny" about what is happening in her community. So she turns to her local newspaper for everything from city council decisions to where there is a taco feed. "It is local events that I like to know about," the 86-year-old woman said about what she has found in the Bemidji Pioneer since she and her husband moved the community in 1976.
ST. PAUL — Vegetables are rotting in California because farmers cannot find enough workers to harvest them. "I need more Mexicans like you," a Kansas wheat farmer told an undocumented immigrant. It is easy to find stories about the need for farm country workers in media nationwide. At the recent Farmfest event in southwestern Minnesota, American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said immigration and lack of farm workers is the No. 1 issue in rural America.