Healthcare at the forefront of the Michigan 1st District race between Bergman and Lorinser

When Kinross EMS is called to deal with an emergency, EMS director Renee Gray hears a piercing alarm and voice from a loudspeaker.

A woman nearby shows symptoms of a stroke. But as two of Gray’s three EMS crews are on other assignments, he has no choice but to send his latest crew.

If another call comes in, Gray will have to answer herself or contact a more distant agency to come to the rescue.

Cases like this occur in the first convention district, which includes the entire UP and the counties north of Houghton Lake. With each new year, Gray said it becomes more and more difficult to manage his EMS service.

“Regular Type 3 ambulances went from $ 110,000 to $ 280,000. It’s not even the equipment to get into it, “Gray said.” And now we’re trying to make sure we’re hiring enough staff to keep everything rolling. “

But it’s not just about ambulance services.

The mere physical distance between people and the resources they need can sometimes lead to life or death situations.

Whether you’re talking about EMS, pediatrics, or mental health, officials agree Northern Michigan needs to do better.

“It’s a centuries-old problem,” said John Barnas, executive director of the Michigan Center for Rural Health. “There continues to be recognition that there are problems in rural America [and] Rural Michigan that needs to be addressed.

Contenders for Michigan’s first congressional district list health care as a priority.

This year, Republican incumbent Jack Bergman is challenged by Dr. Bob Lorinser of Marquette. Libertarian Andrew Gale and Liz Hakola of the Working Class Party are also in the running.

Lorinser, a Democrat, hopes to turn the district upside down by proposing to voters as a doctor rather than a politician.

But it’s no secret that the district is solidly Republican.

“The Democrats have come a long way to achieve this,” said Scott LaDeur, professor of political science at North Central Community College in Petoskey.

He said the reorganization process only increased the Republican advantage. He added five counties to the south that also recently backed the Republican and abandoned Manistee and part of Mason County.

Bergman, a Marine veteran and former airline pilot, has been in his post since 2017. The last Democrat to represent Northern Michigan was Bart Stupak in 2010.

But Lorinser said he has firsthand experience tackling the pitfalls of rural health while covering weekend shifts in small UP hospitals.

“I still remember the car accident with six patients on the way. It was me and two nurses. I’ve never been more afraid of myself, “he said.” You know, the accident happened there. And if it wasn’t for our efforts at that smaller hospital, I don’t think they would have come with the EMS to a larger hospital “.

Lorinser said he wanted to see a “comprehensive and comprehensive plan for rural health care in the United States”. He said he would work to set federal standards for things like ambulance response time and the number of doctors per community.

It would also have supported increased funding for services and the creation of a professional pipeline for rural community staff.

Its campaign website said it would also support a universal health care plan and expansions to Medicare and Medicaid.

Bergman, the Republican, has a different approach: facilitating access by limiting federal bureaucracy.

“I think the role of the federal government in this particular case is to provide a certain level, a certain level of funding,” Bergman said. “But also to stay away from Michigan.”

He said access to rural health care can be improved by focusing on other things like broadband internet so that residents can use telemedicine services.

“People are more concerned about being able to fill up with gas in their cars to get to their doctor than about health care itself,” he said.

Bergman highlighted his efforts in Congress to protect people with pre-existing conditions, but he also voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017.

Political science professor Scott LaDeur said that while access to health care is important for District 1 voters, that doesn’t mean people will vote outside party lines for it.

“If I’m insured and live in Petoskey or Traverse City or Sault Sainte Marie and have quick access to a hospital and emergency care facilities, then that’s not a big deal,” LaDeur said. “If you live on the outskirts of Cheboygan, it looks very different.”

When it comes to solving the problem, Dr Tressa Gardner, director of emergency services at McLaren Health System, said it’s about resources.

“People go north for a reason; they love the rural environment. But when you’re in a rural setting, it has some limitations, “she said.

For frontline workers like Renee Gray, it’s hard to look at the federal government as a support system when facilities like hers struggle every day.

“I really hope some of our new members of Congress can help us get some [solutions]”she said.” Because if we don’t, the EMS structure in the nation will collapse. I have no doubt. It’s already doing it slowly. “

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