For people in the town of Webb, the age-old challenge of delivering healthcare to rural, underserved communities is more than a distant news story; it's their unwelcome reality. The town is losing its first and only practicing pediatrician.
"The dedicated pediatrician who was there part-time was seeing less than a dozen patients a week. It was not a real viable option for us to support," says MVHS President and CEO, Darlene Stromstad.
Stromstad says MVHS tried, but simply cannot, especially in the wake of the costly coronavirus, maintain the practice as is.
"The community really wanted those providers. We tried to support it. We tried to grow it, it just didn't grow and then with the Covid-19 hitting that practice, we were at a clip to lose three quarters of a million dollars, $750,000, on that one location. We cannot afford to do that," said Stromstad.
That pediatrician, Dr. Rhea Ivins, is heartbroken.
"They're my patients, they're my families," said Dr. Ivins. "Now if you want to go see a pediatrician just like before, you have to drive into Utica."
The doctor says that hanging a sign and opening her own practice isn't an option.
"In today's day, you can't just put a shingle out there. It is so complicated with insurances and malpractice, and staffing and supplies," said Ivins. "It's a lot. It takes a lot to run a practice and that's why most physicians aren't going into private practice anymore. They're working for hospitals because it's just too expensive."
Ivins has been moved by the outpouring of support on community social media message boards.
"I have been overwhelmed......I can't believe it...I am absolutely overwhelmed with the response, unbelievable."
The doctor is sad, but not bitter.
"I'm not blaming MVHS for any of this. It just IS."
In order to accommodate changes being made throughout MVHS in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice will move from two full-time providers and one part-time provider to one full-time provider. Other staff will remain.