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Chamber lunch provides insight into local health care
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The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce held their Progress Through People Luncheon last Thursday, which provided an eye-opening look at the state of health care within our community. Russ Toal spoke about the three Ring Healthcare Consortium and its mission.
According to Toal, the mission of the Three Ring Consortium is to create a regional health system that provides high quality, accessible primary health care, selected specialty services and behavioral health with a focus on preventative health education and appropriate wellness services. The consortium aims to accomplish its mission while ensuring integrity, accountability, professionalism and regional networking within a tri-county area comprised of Liberty, Long and McIntosh counties.
According to Toal's research, these three counties have an excess of 80,000 residents who would be potentially impacted by the consortium. The three counties are considered physician-shortage areas, and the percentage of uninsured non-elderly residents in all three counties is more than 22 percent.
Toal's research indicates the uninsured are more likely to be between 18-24 years old, underpaid workers who are ineligible for Medicaid, and residents with lower education attainment.
Toal based his number on studies completed in 2000 by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Georgia Statistics.
The first step would be a system oversight and evaluation of the regional health care system and their components. The lead agency for the project is the Liberty County Health Planning Board. Partners of the Three Ring Health Consortium include the local government, long-term care providers, business community hospitals in all three counties as well as faith based organizations, educational system community, civic organizations and emergency personnel.
 The evaluation process would take into consideration the issues that are currently affecting the individuals within the three counties, such as lack of transportation to and from health care facilities, the shortage of physicians, number of uninsured and other barriers.
The ultimate goal is to assess the strengths of each community and begin to extend those services to the tri-county area while developing educational programs on the importance of preventative care.
The evaluation should set the stage for the next phase, which includes sources of funding such as grant sources, cash donations and in-kind matches. Technology could increase accessibility to patients' records within the systems without compromising HIPPA Laws.
The work will take some time, but the presentation set the stage for the beginning of the project. The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce thanked Toal for his presentation and appeared excited to be a part of the process.

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