It’s no secret there’s a healthcare shortage in Antelope County, but did you know that’s about to change?
More specifically, it’s about 90 percent away from changing thanks to innovate recruiting. To secure two new doctors to the area, there will be financial assistance for their medical school expenses, which will in turn help the local economy.
After all, Antelope Memorial Hospital is the county's largest employer, so having a shortage of doctors is more than just a healthcare issue. The same can be said about Terry Jensen Dentistry, which has fewer employees but is still vital to the community.
“This is not only a healthcare issue but an economic development issue," said Neligh Economic Development Director Greg Ptacek. "This program will transition a vitally important business (Terry Jensen Dentistry) in Antelope County to a new owner, retaining 5 employees. It will also insure that Antelope County’s largest employer is in a position to succeed for decades to come.”
Ptacek said Antelope County is raising $240,000 to help attract a new medical doctor, as well as to secure Neligh’s newest dentist Dr. Tim Brovont. To accomplish this, the economic office has partnered with Antelope Memorial Hospital, Jensen Dentistry and the Antelope County Healthcare Foundation to form a recruitment committee.
"The community has invested in AMH making it a top-notch facility," Ptacek said. "But you have to understand that having state of the art equipment and facilities are worthless without having doctors on staff. The economic impact starts with the doctor positions and trickles down through the economy. It can be felt throughout the entire county through AMH employees, families and patients."
What’s really exciting, Ptacek said, is that about $214,000 is already accounted for, leaving the project just $36,000 - or 11 percent - away from it’s goal.
“This is incredibly exciting for the county,” he said. “We’ve been working on this project for about nine months and have reached out to a lot of private donors to secure the funding we have.”
Ptacek said every donation helps, no matter the size. He said people can pledge a donation each year for three years or give a one-time donation. They can do that in person, through the mail or even online here.
Ptacek said the project has two grants - if the terms are all met - that cover two-thirds of the funding, or $160,000. The community is responsible for the other $80,000. Ptacek said about $50,000 has already been raised.
“We only need to raise another $10,000 a year for three years, and we’ve met our goal,” Ptacek said. “We have nearly 90 percent of our funding accounted for, which is phenomenal. Now, we just need help with the last $30,000, and that’s where the community really comes in.”
Half of the overall funds will come from the Department of Health and Human Services because Antelope County is in a healthcare shortage. Another $80,000 will come from the Sherwood Foundation (formerly known as the Susan A. Buffett Foundation) via a matching grant. For every $2 raised by the community, the Sherwood Foundation will donate $1.
The Sherwood Foundation was intrigued by the idea of helping Neligh. Officials said the project may serve as a model for other rural scenarios across the state. Matthew J. Rezac, director of rural community partnerships for the Sherwood Foundation, said he’s excited to be a part of this project.
"This idea was received with a lot of intrigue and rock-on-itude at the community trying innovative ways to do what needs to be done,” Rezac said.
The key to making this successful, Ptacek said, is having all of Antelope County involved. Numerous civic groups have already pledged to donate for the next three years.
“I'm confident if all of Antelope County is behind this program, we will secure the funding,” he said. "Neligh is spearheading this program, but all of the county benefits. There are clinics in Clearwater, Elgin and Orchard, so the impact is far reaching."
Earlier this year, Dr. Terry Jensen announced the addition of Dr. Brovont to his practice in Neligh. Half of the funding in this project would go toward his loan repayment, and the other half toward expenses for a doctor at AMH.
The funds, Ptacek said, would be paid over a three-year period with the stipulation that the doctor remains in the community for at least three years. Dr. Brovont is required by contract with Dr. Jensen to buy out the practice.
“We’re looking longterm and this will stage Antelope County for success for the next 10-20 years,” Ptacek said. “Healthcare contributes to the quality of life, and that’s a major reason to live in rural Nebraska. Antelope County is staged perfectly for amazing healthcare with a newly renovated AMH, dentists, chiropractors, eye physicians and pharmacies."
Donations are tax-deductible through the Antelope County Health Foundation. They can be sent to the Economic Development office at 105 E 2nd Street, Neligh, NE 68756 or Pinnacle Bank, c/o Bill Bates, 324 Main Street, Neligh, NE 68756 or online here. http://www.gofundme.com/antelopecounty