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CFVH recognized for rural healthcare

Friday, June 26, 2015

by Alex Violo, Clark Fork Valley Press

PLAINS – A group of cyclists, biking across a wide swath of the country this summer, stopped by Plains last week.

The cyclists, 30 individuals biking from Skykomish, WA to Sioux Falls, SD have undertaken their summer journey to raise money for a hospital in rural Ecuador.

The group is part of the Andean Health 1500 campaign, an effort to improve rural health throughout the Americas.

Partnering with Andean Health and Development, Andean Health 1500's mission is to raise $500,000 to support the completion of Hesburgh Hospital in Santo Domingo, Ecuador.

According to a press release from the organization more than $4 million has already been raised to cover the costs of constructing the hospital and additional funds raised by the cyclists will go towards equipping the hospital, while also supporting research and training programs at the facility.

In addition to raising money for the Ecuadorian hospital the cyclists of Andean Health 1500 are also taking time out of their journey to recognize standout facilities in the United States, which have shown an emphasis on improving rural health care in the states.

Clark Fork Valley Hospital and Family Medicine Network of Plains was selected by the Andean Health and Development advisory board to receive the "Improving Rural Health in the Americas" Recognition Award.

On the Thursday, June 18, Andean Heatlh 1500 paid the hospital a visit to recognize them for their contributions to rural healthcare.

CFVH was selected for the award due to a number of criteria including a significant impact on rural communities, recognition from the community and people the hospital serves as a vital asset and providing quality care, while assuring people are treated with respect.

During the presentation of the award Chair of the AHD Board Michael Heisler congratulated the staff of CFVH for all they have accomplished at their facility in Sanders County.

"We congratulate you on the work you do here," Heisler said.

Speaking about AHD's work in Latin America, AHD Founder and Executive Director David Gaus noted the achievements of the group since it began operations in 1997.

The planned hospital in Santo Domingo will accompany an existing hospital in Maldonado, Ecuador, which AHD opened in a rural portion of the South American nation a few years ago.

"No one believed you could start a hospital in rural Latin America that wouldn't need external funding," Gaus said.

Gaus explained the residency program offered by AHD trains rural family physicians in Ecuador helping to promote financial stability.

He also noted he was proud that AHD has been able to improve health care in rural portions of Ecuador, areas far removed from the health services present in the nation's capital, Quito.

"We have introduced a hospital where there has never been one," Gaus said.

Gaus added one of the main reasons AHD got started was to find a way to improve Ecuadorians access to health care.

"We wanted to try to figure out a way to improve the Ecuadorian health system," Gaus said.

The stop in Plains occurred during the group's fifth day on the road.

Before their break at CFVH the group had cycled in from Thompson Falls.

Following the award ceremony in Plains the 30 cyclists pedaled on to Missoula where they spent the night before heading off to Helmville on Friday, June 19.

Before the conclusion of their trek the cyclists of Andean Health 1500 will take a break from their trip to recognize rural community health centers in Lame Deer, Winner, SD and Parkston, SD.

Over the course of the summer members of the Andean Health 1500 will peddle 1,500 miles, pass through five different states and climb a total of 50,000 feet over the course of their journey.

The trek is scheduled to end on Saturday, July 4, in Sioux Falls.

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