Mark Walker, U.S. Congressman for the 6th District of North Carolina, and Kyle Hall, field director and state House representative for District 91, dropped in on the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce in Elkin Monday to meet with local businesses and organizations and find out what can be done to improve the community before Jan. 1, 2017, when Walker no longer will represent the 6th District due to redrawing of district lines.
After his quick visit in Elkin, Walker continued his trip to Mount Airy and the Dobson area.
“We wanted to come back through the area we’ve been privileged to represent because with the federal redistricting that’s been taking place, Surry and Stokes will now go into the 5th district as opposed to our 6th district,” said Walker. “We’ve made just great relationships we wanted to come back and say, ‘even though there’s a transition, we want to let you know that we care about what’s going on here and want to know how can we give a service.’”
“I think it went great,” said Myra Cook, president of the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce. “He’s always so comfortable to be talking with and I feel people don’t mind asking him questions. I feel like he’s very honest with his answer so I’m really happy that he got to come visit.”
For Walker, the relationships he’s formed with district industries and businesses has been a two-way street. There’s a lot of back and forth in finding the needs of the community and how the government can help.
“We’ve met a lot of good people and have made a lot of relationships and it’s always a touch of aggravation when someone redraws the maps because it’s all about forming these business relationships,” said Walker. “You grow to understand what’s important legislative wise and how you’re able to represent them. People get comfortable enough to talk with you and say what can be done for the community. You educate them and they educate you.”
During the visit, Paul Hammes, CEO of Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, and Mary F. Blackburn, vice president for growth and market development at HCMH, stopped in and thanked them for serving the community as well as to share their recent growth. They also made requests to look into a few situations and concerns revolving around the hospital, including outside services, Medicaid expansion, and concerns about the challenges of recruiting new doctors to a rural community.
Hammes discussed the issue of Medicaid expansion for the hospital.
“We probably, at Hugh Chatham, have forgone about $2 million a year in reimbursement. We received a deduction from Medicare in anticipation of Medicaid expanding in the state and when it did not work out, it was a double whammy,” said Hammes.
According to Hammes, it also has been difficult recruiting new doctors to join Hugh Chatham due to the rural location.
“It’s hard to hire and recruit doctors coming out of training and more than ever, 90 percent of them go to an urban setting,” said Hammes. “Anything that the federal or state government can do to help rural hospitals by creating incentives for physicians or to pay off students’ loans, whatever the case may be, we can use all the help we can get.”
Reviewing the requests, Walker has been impressed by the community’s engagement of the hospital and said he will look into the matters.
For Walker, even though he may not be a representative of the 5th district, he still feels obligated to carry out his duties until the end of the year.
“I just think it’s the right thing to do,” said Walker. “Maybe that’s the minister in me. Just because someone can’t vote for you or provide some kind of benefit, that doesn’t mean you should just say, ‘you’re someone else’s problem to deal with now.’ The goal is to continue to try and serve and meet the needs of the area. Even though they are not able to vote for you, you’re still officially part of the district till January 1st so we still have a responsibility to serve the community’s needs even though they’re not a part of the district anymore.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.