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Senator Tina Smith visits Cook County

Senator Tina Smith visited Cook County yesterday, spending time at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and North Shore Health and with members of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Chippewa.

During her visit to our local medical facilities, Senator Smith sat down with local health care administrators and staff for a roundtable discussion.

The conversation covered the many partnerships in place in Cook County to provide health care services. Sawtooth Mountain Clinic CEO Kate Surbaugh and Cook County Public Health and Human Services Director Alison McIntire talked about the shared family home visiting program.

Senator Smith asked about challenges for rural health care and North Shore Health CEO Kimber Wraalstad pointed out that despite the hospital no longer handling scheduled deliveries, North Shore Health does provide pre- and post-natal care.
Dr. Milan Schmidt spoke about the recent improved behavioral health services at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. Dr. Schmidt said he would like to see behavioral health evaluation become a routine part of physician visits.

Staffing was a critical issue shared with Senator Smith by nearly all the participants. There was discussion of the impact of lack of housing for applicants to various vital healthcare positions.

The importance of federal funding for rural medical centers was stressed. Administrators suggested some changes to the language used in the criteria for funding rural health centers, as the current guidelines sometimes cause hardship for truly rural areas like Cook County.

Senator Smith was given a tour of the hospital, care center, and clinic and spent about an hour in the roundtable session.
WTIP was able to speak with the senator before she headed to her next stop in Grand Portage. We were able to ask just a few questions--about mining, transportation, and about the legacy of Senator Paul Wellstone.