While basic health care needs can generally be taken care of within Chautauqua County, those seeking some specialty care may need to travel.
However, just because services are available in the county doesn't mean they are easily accessible. With many areas in the county being designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas, a trip to the doctor could very well mean an extended waiting period.
"We absolutely need more primary care in the community, and we are well-served to have community hospitals like WCA and Brooks," said Ann Abdella, executive director for the Chautauqua County Health Network. "But, we are not one-stop shopping local."
The four hospitals in Chautauqua County - WCA Hospital in Jamestown, Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk, Westfield Memorial Hospital in Westfield and Lake Shore Health Care Center in Irving - service many of the needs of residents.
Additionally, organizations - such as The Resource Center or Lutheran Social Services - work to fulfill health care needs. And, there are many private practices throughout the county. However, according to Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney, Health Care Action Team chair, the county has needs, especially in psychiatry and dentistry, in addition to needing more primary care physicians.
Abdella and Dr. Ney both praised the mobile dental van, from The University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine. The van, which was unveiled at Fletcher Elementary School in November, services the dental needs of children throughout the county.
"Part of it is, there's just not enough dentists in this area to go around in this area," Abdella said. "Just like the primary care HPSA, there's a dental professional shortage designation for again, the same thing for behavioral health."
Dr. Ney also pointed out school-based health clinics, such as the clinic at Jamestown High School, as being an asset to the county.
"These are a tremendous help, because they can take care of the students right there," Dr. Ney said. "They are able to take care of the person's primary care needs, and it's reimbursed as well."
Some specialists are necessary in this area. According to Abdella, with the aging population in Chautauqua County, it makes sense to have orthopedic care. It is also necessary because of the amount of hockey players and skiers who come to the area. Additionally, radiology is important for the county, as many residents will need X-rays at some point in their lives. And, pathology is important as well, with people requiring blood work to be done.
When it comes to some care, though, Abdella said it simply does not make sense for some specialists to settle in this area.
"Do we need somebody here who is going to be doing intensive care for neonatal cardiology? No," she said. "That type of thing needs to be taken to somebody in a tertiary care facility that specializes in the nuances of that."
Abdella explained that there are some specialties that are just not high in demand in Chautauqua County. Additionally, the reimbursement in the county is lower than it would be in larger metropolitan areas, which affects the draw for specialists to settle here.
"There are economies of scale," she said. "Having specialists doing certain things that they do a lot of and they do often, they really do it all day every day, there are efficiencies and economies of scale that come from that. It makes it really hard in a rural area."