rural health care

City of Tonasket

Debbie Roberts wishes her step-brother had just slid away from his advanced Parkinson’s disease.

He died November 29, just one person among many who died in an outbreak of COVID-19 at North Valley Extended Care in the Okanogan County town of Tonasket — population about 1,000. So far, at least 16 people at the facility have died since Thanksgiving.

Courtesy of Mid-Valley Hospital

Hospitals in Washington are starting to act on the permission given them by Gov. Jay Inslee to resume non-essential medical procedures. Some may begin work by or before next week.

That won’t come soon enough for one unnamed Washington hospital CEO.

Vaughn Bullfinch. Medical resident Vaughn Bullfinch considers himself lucky to have residency spot in a rural Northwest hospital in an area where he hopes to settle down.

For decades, rural parts of the Northwest have found it difficult to lure doctors to small towns. Community leaders in Yakima, Wash. went so far as to found a small medical school to train doctors to practice in these underserved areas.

The Pacific Northwest University opened in 2006. But there is a problem. Small towns throughout the region just don’t have enough residency programs. And that means many of these doctors-in-training may move away.