Pierre, SD.   –   Outside of the major cities in South Dakota and across the country, communities on Thursday are celebrating National Rural Health Day.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard has issued a proclamation marking the day.

More than 60 million Americans live in rural areas, and Tom Martinec, deputy secretary of the state for Department of Health, says the biggest challenge South Dakota’s rural communities face is a workforce shortage.

When providers leave an area that affects access to care as well as economic stability.

“A lot of times, the health care facilities are some of the larger employers in the community, and the community really sees that as a vital resource that needs to be provided,” he points out. “In those situations where they lose a health care facility or they lose some practitioners, that really impacts the community.”

Martinec says Emergency Medical Services are another big hurdle. Often in rural communities, the EMS workforce is voluntary.

But Martinec says rural communities’ biggest challenge also reveals one of its biggest strengths – the devoted nature of rural workers.

“Those are some of the most dedicated, hard working folks you’ll find in health care because they’re committed to that facility,” he states. “It’s more of a community type of commitment they have. And so, we see very good quality of care.”

Martinec says telemedicine has expanded health care in rural areas, giving isolated communities access to specialized services.

He says telemedicine is one the assets helping to keep rural facilities viable.


Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service