CLARKSVILLE — In front of the Clarksville hospital site, Senate District 1 Democratic candidate Audrey Spanko cited a failure of state level leadership for a lack of rural health care during a Saturday press conference.
“(Sen. Bryan Hughes) has refused to act,” she said. “It is beyond time to act. Our elected officials have proved they cannot get the job done.”
Spanko is running against incumbent Hughes, R-Mineola, for the District 1 seat. She has challenged Hughes to a debate back in the summer, but the Hughes camp has refused to comment on it or engage the Spanko campaign at all in the public sphere.
Spanko’s press conference covered rural health care, posed in front of the Clarksville hospital. Construction on the site has been delayed several times now, and Spanko spoke about how important rural health care is.
“I’ve been practicing social work for over a decade, primarily in public health,” she said. “We need lawmakers who will prioritize their district and their constituents. We need lawmakers who will fight for us. Senate District 1 is currently home to more than 135,00 uninsured individuals.”
The district, if taken separately as a state, would rank 51st in stroke mortality and 45th in overall mortality when compared to other states.
“The last years of this district, residents have traveled dozens of miles for care,” Spanko said. “Longer travel times have cost individuals their lives.”
One of Spanko’s main platforms is providing better access to health care for rural Texas, including expanding Medicaid, which would give 42,000 people in Senate District 1 immediate access to health care.
“An estimated 2.2 million Texans would immediately gain coverage,” Spanko said. “This number has grown exponentially during this pandemic.”
Health care should be a right for all Texans, she said.
“Health care is a right, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford a premium,” Spanko said. “Expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act is a moral imperative for everyone who believes in the dignity and value of a human life. Expanding Medicaid won’t solve all the problems, but it is a step in the right direction.”
Expansion would allow rural hospitals to not only afford more care for rural Texans, but better quality care as well, she said.
“Profitability does not represent the need for a hospital in a community,” Spanko said.
The state government should also work to make internet access a public utility. Through this pandemic, many health care providers have expanded their practices to include telehealth, easing burdens on emergency rooms and doctors’ offices. With the internet as a utility, East Texans could receive better health care, she said.
“Telehealth services vastly improve access to health care and reduce costs to providers,” Spanko said. “… Rural Texans should not have to suffer because of where they’ve chosen to live.”
Legislative priorities for the state and her opponent have been metropolitan areas and corporate interests, she said.
“Look at my opponent’s record. He claims to represent East Texas values, but he has yet to draft or support legislation that would create a tangible difference in health care in East Texas,” Spanko said. “He does not hold town halls. He is not listening to his constituents. He doesn’t care about us.
“He does not care about lifting rural voices. He has become a corporate mouthpiece. It is time we say enough is enough. We will not continue to stand for low wages, hospital closures and basic needs, like affordable health care. I am on a mission to fight for East Texans.”