Winnebago community leaders have long espoused how important the three Ds are to a community’s ability to thrive.
The three Ds represent three important services: a doctor, a dentist and drugs - or, in other words, a pharmacy.
At the end of last year, at a meeting held on Nov. 3, the Winnebago Economic Development Authority (EDA) designated the search for a doctor, dentist, and pharmacy - as well as an attorney – as a ‘high-priority’ item for Winnebago’s future development.
“All of those things are important,” mayor Scott Robertson said, adding he would especially like to see a doctor and pharmacy come to the community.
In answer to the EDA’s concerns, a few community members formed a taskforce to identify concrete steps toward addressing the issue.
The resulting Healthcare Recruitment Task Force is a group of Winnebago stakeholders, and business owners in the medical field, who meet semi-occasionally to discuss resources for bringing healthcare services to Winnebago.
“Our long-term goals are to investigate ways to bring healthcare into Winnebago for the longevity of our community and our residents,” Angie Stier, Winnebago’s EDA specialist, summarizes.
“Our premium focus at this point is pharmacy and medical,” she adds. “Dental we’ll investigate a little further as we go on.”
Stier says the group has met three times since last December.
Winnebago’s concerns about the lack of healthcare options in the area were sparked when Winnebago’s United Hospital District (UHD)-operated clinic temporarily closed.
“There is a huge demand since UHD is not operating in Winnebago that we have a similar care service that residents can take part in,” Stier explains.
The city still hopes to remain in discussion with UHD in the event that the clinic’s Winnebago location may be reopened.
At its Nov. 3 meeting, the Winnebago EDA designated supporting UHD in reopening the Winnebago Clinic as ‘obviously high-priority.’
However, half a year later, Stier observes, “They (the clinic) still haven’t opened. If they do come in, great. If they don’t, we need to check out other options.”
The Healthcare Recruitment Task Force already has several ideas on the table.
Stier says the group has already been in conversation with a healthcare professional company about putting a satellite location somewhere in town. The process would involve identifying the best location for satellite healthcare services and finding funding for any necessary equipment.
The Healthcare Recruitment Task Force has also discussed the feasibility of acquiring telepharmacy services in Winnebago with Sterling Drug, a business which offers pharmacy services in Fairmont.
In regards to establishing a pharmacy in Winnebago, Stier notes, “There is an area in the corner of the grocery store created with that specific intention.”
These discussions, of course, are just first steps toward the group’s larger goals for the future.
“The key is honestly just getting everybody involved in it,” Stier explains.
She says the group wants to ensure its efforts do not interfere with local services already offered in the Winnebago area.
Currently, the community has an optometrist – Brett Johnson – and Winnebago Chiropractic. Parker Oaks Senior Living also offers healthcare services.
Broadly, the Healthcare Recruitment Task Force recognizes what a vital role medical, pharmaceutical and dental services play in a community’s success.
Stier notes the inconvenience experienced by small town residents when they have to travel for healthcare services.
“A lot of those people may not have two cars to take out to a doctor appointment while one person’s working,” she considers. “Or, older residents are not comfortable driving.”
Stier concludes, “We’re trying to accommodate to staying local, keeping our money local, and bringing businesses into the area that could do some good.”
She adds, “It’s an ongoing conversation. Investigating, discussing, reaching out – it takes time.”