Rugge mourns loss of Dr. Daines

WARRENSBURG-In the wake of the death of former state Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines, Dr. John Rugge - founder of the region's leading health chain - recalled Daines' vital impact on rural health care.

Daines made more than a half-dozen visits to Warren County during his four-year tenure which ended Dec. 31.

Rugge, CEOof Hudson Headwaters Health Network (HHHN), said Daines was a champion of the Adirondack Medical Home Pilot program, designed to enhance rural health care - initiatives which Rugge and other upstate New York physicians and health administrators engineered.

"This is really so sad - it's a great loss to all of us," Rugge said, recalling how Daines had brought Gov. David Paterson to Hudson Headwaters' clinic in Glens Falls several years ago to make major announcements on health care reform. "He was very much a leader and thinker about what needed to be done to protect and improve rural health care."

Rugge added that Daines understood HHHN's mission and the problems it faced, like recruiting and retaining doctors, centralizing patient information, and dealing with slashed reimbursements from both governments and health insurers.

"Dr. Daines was so determined to do his best to serve everyone well," Rugge continued, recalling how Daines had driven his pickup truck in January 2009 through a blizzard to Chestertown to visit the HHHN health center.

"He came to realize the nature and complexity of problems we face to bring health care to the mountains," Rugge said. "And he was supportive every step of the way, making our operations the model for rural health care nationally."

Daines, 60, died Feb. 26 at a barn on his Dutchess County property, where he had been taking down Christmas decorations, according to a report in the New York Times.

His former press secretary, Claudia Hutton, reported to the Times that Daines had been in good health, but was apparently stricken by a heart attack.

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