Why MI (and my) Rural Care Matters

Posted on June 13, 2019

MHA Senior Vice President Ruthie SudderthDo you know where Gladstone, Michigan, is? Most people don’t. When I tell them that’s where I was born and raised, they nod along because it probably sounds familiar. Maybe they accidentally drove through it on their way to another destination at some point. Maybe they’ve heard that there’s a small town up north that is otherwise known as the “walleye capital of the world.” Anyway, that’s where I’m from. A small city of barely 5,000 people, a few miles north of Escanaba, on Lake Michigan’s Little Bay de Noc. In the early 1980s, I was born at the only hospital in the county: OSF St. Francis Hospital, in neighboring Escanaba. Escanaba is a booming metropolis in the Upper Peninsula, with north of 11,000 residents.

What do Gladstone and Escanaba have in common with so many other small cities across Michigan? It’s that the local hospital is a lifeline to the people in these cities and towns. It’s usually the largest employer. It’s the only place to go for emergency care. Often, the hospital’s outpatient and ambulatory services are the only ones available to residents. The hospital’s physicians are often the ones people see for preventive care, child well visits and routine services. These medical needs are vital to maintaining a vibrant and healthy community, where businesses want to stay and young families want to grow.

Last week, the MHA launched a new storytelling series called #MIRuralCareMatters to tell the stories from the mouths of community members — mayors, business owners, residents and others — about how their local hospital impacts their city. The economy, the families who live there, their ability to attract businesses and travelers. Gladstone is the perfect example of this. My parents, both Detroit natives, chose to move there after meeting at Northern Michigan University and then moving to the western United States for several years. They wanted to come back to Michigan — but to a city up north where they could start a family. They would not have chosen to build a home and raise children in a city with no or inadequate healthcare services.

The medical care provided by small and rural hospitals is just one important piece of what they do for their communities. These organizations are mission-driven and have extended their footprints out into the community to impact health outside the hospital walls. In the first two stories of the #MIRuralCareMatters project, we visited Eaton Rapids Medical Center and Munson Medical Center to talk with community leaders about their respective investments in providing a safe and healthy space for teenagers and providing nutritious food and resources for residents. In future stories, you’ll hear from residents in St. Ignace, Mt. Pleasant, Marshall and many more, and we’re excited to share these voices with you.

I know, from the first 18 years of my life, that any time I or any of my family members needed healthcare, OSF St. Francis Hospital was there for us. They allowed us to feel safe and cared for in the beautiful — but small — city on Lake Michigan that we chose to call home. That’s what small and rural hospitals really do for their cities. They allow people to build the lives they’ve always wanted, in communities they love, from the northern tip of the UP all the way down to the southern corners of the mitten, and everywhere in between. We hope you’ll enjoy following along with this campaign and getting to know our small and rural hospitals and why #MIRuralCareMatters.

Ruthie Sudderth is senior vice president, public affairs & communications, at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.


  • Why MI (and my) Rural Care Matters

Tags: #MiCareMatters, rural health, Ruthanne Sudderth, #MiRuralCareMatters, Eaton Rapids Medical Center, Munson Medical Center

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