The Struggle To Hire And Keep Doctors In Rural Areas Means Patients Go Without Care

Heard on NPR All Things Considered

Taylor Walker is wiping down tables after the lunch rush at the Bunkhouse Bar and Grill in remote Arthur, Nebraska, a tiny dot of a town ringed by cattle ranches.

The 25-year-old has her young son in tow, and she is expecting another baby in August.

“I was just having some terrible pain with this pregnancy and I couldn’t get in with my doctor,” she says.

Visiting her obstetrician in North Platte is a four-hour, round-trip endeavor that usually means missing a day of work. She arrived to a recent visit only to learn that another doctor was on call and hers wasn’t available.

“So then we had to make three trips down there just to get into my regular doctor,” Walker says.

This inconvenience is part of life in Arthur County, a 700-square-mile slice of western Nebraska prairie that’s home to only 465 people. According to census figures, it’s the fifth least-populated county in the nation.

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