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Rural Healthcare Systems Bring More Than Good Health to the Communities They Serve

Lake Region Healthcare Fergus Falls MN
Photo Credit: Brandon Stengel —

While there’s a lot to love about the Fergus Falls region, one thing that sets it apart from other rural communities is its healthcare system. Fergus Falls is home to Lake Region Healthcare, a private healthcare system that operates as a community-governed nonprofit organization. An independent healthcare system with such a breadth of services is incredibly rare in a city the size of Fergus Falls.

“Lake Region Healthcare is one of only a handful of rural healthcare systems our size who are still independent,” explains Kent Mattson, CEO of Lake Region Healthcare. “[We] don’t exist to return earnings to a shareholder, family, or any person or persons, and we are not part of a taxpayer supported government … we are truly a self-sustaining charitable organization of and for the communities we serve.”

The independent structure allows the organization to prioritize community needs over profits. Mattson also says the structure plays a role in Lake Region Healthcare’s ability to offer the range of specialty care services it does. From a dedicated Cancer Care and Research Center to sports medicine, citizens can find the medical help they need right in their community.

Why is Community Healthcare Important in Rural Communities?

A major benefit of rural healthcare is that citizens have greater access to preventative health care services. This is crucial for patients who may not have the means or ability to travel to larger cities for medical care. In that same vein, a regional hospital and trauma center not only provides faster emergency response times but improves patient outcomes in emergency situations.

Other benefits of community healthcare include:

  • Lower medical costs

  • Higher citizen engagement in care decisions

  • Enhanced public health initiatives and public outreach programs

  • Personalized connections with healthcare providers

Healthcare systems aren’t just important to improving the health and well-being of those who live, work, and play in the community. They also play a crucial role in the community’s economic vitality.

Nurse taking blood pressure at Lake Region Healthcare
Photo Credit: Brandon Stengel —

How Do Rural Healthcare Systems Contribute to the Local Economy?

In rural communities like Fergus Falls, healthcare and the economy are often two halves of the same coin. Rural healthcare systems contribute money to the local economy through income and property taxes, as well as dollars spent on infrastructure and community services. The stronger the healthcare system, the stronger the economy and vice versa.

Let’s take a closer look at two significant ways rural healthcare systems contribute to the local economy: boosting economic growth and workforce retention and recruitment efforts.

Economic Growth

When it comes to economic and community development, health services play a much larger role than many realize. A flourishing healthcare industry drives employment and infuses labor income into the local economy. It also helps to attract and retain business and industry.

“A high-quality healthcare system is an indication of a thriving community,” Mattson notes. “Economic and community developers can leverage the jobs, investment in the community, and care provided by a healthcare system to elevate their standing with a prospect.”

Healthcare is also a consideration for those getting ready to leave the workforce. Communities with quality healthcare facilities often have a higher population of retirees, which contributes to growing and diversifying the local economy. Studies have shown “communities that have a sizable elderly population are more likely to have a stable economy and are resistant to economic downswings.”

It’s also important to note that as the economy grows, so does the local healthcare system. As new businesses and families settle in the area, the system’s capacity to support them has to increase. A growing healthcare industry provides more services and employment opportunities in the region, which in turn contributes to economic vitality.

Doctor checking breath sounds Lake Region Healthcare
Photo Credit: Brandon Stengel —

Workforce Retention & Recruitment

Healthcare is one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in the United States. With 22 million workers, it accounts for 14% of the country’s workforce. On a regional level, 29.3% of Fergus Falls’ total workforce is employed in the healthcare and social assistance industry.

As such a large contributor to the local economy, filling open positions within the growing industry is essential. The health and well-being of the economy factor into both the retention and recruitment of employees.

“A robust community with a strong economy makes it an attractive place for healthcare professionals and their families to live and work,” says Mattson. “We need quality jobs for spouses, a healthy retail community for goods and services, and diversity in arts and entertainment, sports, and outdoor activities to attract and retain healthcare workers at all levels, and particularly when it comes to specialty physicians.”

Rural healthcare systems are often more committed to workforce development. In addition, they place a higher value on investing time, money, and resources into fostering the emerging workforce. As a result, many partner with local high schools and colleges to help guide curriculums, offer internships, and provide on-the-job training.

Rural Healthcare Systems Thrive on Community Support

It’s clear that a rural healthcare system like Lake Region Healthcare is an asset to the community. But, for rural healthcare to thrive, community support is essential. One of the easiest ways to do that is to visit local healthcare providers before seeking services elsewhere.

As for how Fergus Falls citizens can support Lake Region Healthcare, Mattson suggests:

Greater Fergus Falls is grateful to be part of a community that offers a comprehensive range of medical services. We want to extend a big thank you to the healthcare professionals that live and work in the Fergus Falls area. Thank you for all you do!

For more information about the healthcare services available in Fergus Falls, visit the Lake Region Healthcare website.

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