Rural hospitals face considerable challenges throughout the country. While some rural hospitals thrive in challenging situations, others falter.
Today, we’re highlighting some of the best success stories of rural hospitals across America, including situations where ingenuity, creativity, and flexibility saved small hospitals in rural settings.
Rural Hospital in Beatrice, Nebraska Specializes in Healthcare for Older Adults
Rural areas of America tend to have older populations than urban areas. This increases challenges for rural hospitals.
It’s hard enough running a small, rural hospital. These challenges increase with older populations who have larger, more complicated healthcare needs – and who also tend to be Medicare patients.
Despite these challenges, a small hospital in Beatrice, Nebraska is thriving by implementing a seemingly obvious solution: they’ve invested in aging healthcare, allowing them to specialize in the specific areas where older adults need them most.
The average age in Beatrice, Nebraska is 6 years older than the average age in Nebraska. It’s an older, rural town with a population of 12,200 people.
To address these challenges, the Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center (BCHHC) has implemented a range of solutions. BCHHC has continued to grow, opening a new building while doubling patient numbers since 2009.
What did BCCHC do differently? The hospital made significant investments in treating and serving the area’s aging residents. As the town’s population gets increasingly older, several nursing homes have opened in town, with BCCHC being the primary medical hub for these residents.
Today, BCHHC is the second largest employer in Beatrice. It has a 25-bed hospital employing 512 people with a payroll of $28 million. The hospital earned $100 million in revenue last year – even as other businesses are leaving Beatrice en masse.
Because of their foresight, the Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center continues to thrive amid uncertain times for small, rural hospitals.
Small Hospital Thrives in 6,500 Person Town in Indiana
Similar to the BCHHC success story, Margaret Mary Community Hospital has succeeded in Batesville, Indiana by specializing in caring for older adults.
Batesville, Indiana is home to 6,500 people. To address their needs, Margaret Mary Community Hospital has built a rheumatology program specifically catered to the town’s aging population.
Like Beatrice, Batesville has an older than average population. By focusing on what they do well, and addressing the town’s healthcare needs, Margaret Mary Community Hospital has achieved success.
All of this healthcare investment attracts older retirees to the area. Residents can buy a three-bedroom home in Beatrice for around $70,000. With good healthcare and a low cost of living, Batesville’s future – and the future of Margaret Mary Community Hospital – looks bright.
Childress, Texas Hospital Grows in One of America’s Toughest Markets
Texas has been hit particularly hard by the rural health crisis in the United States. Small hospitals across the state have closed over the past two decades.
Despite these challenges, the hospital in Childress, Texas remains a success story. The 39-bed non-profit Childress Regional Medical Center is one of he few Texas hospitals operating profitably in these times.
What has Childress Regional Medical Center done differently? Some of the strategies implemented by the hospital include:
• The hospital offers expanded services, which means local residents no longer have to drive two hours to reach the nearest hospital; this approach led to nearly 1,000 new patient visits in the most recent fiscal year
• ¬Childress Regional Medical Center has invested in telemedicine units while also increasing the number of doctors and hours at its primary care clinic – all while competing hospitals have taken an opposite approach by cutting hours and service
By expanding staff and hours, Childress Regional Medical Center has become the go-to hospital for patients throughout the region.
Locals no longer have to travel hours to visit neighboring medical centers, for example, because the hospital hired an orthopedic surgeon in 2013. The hospital also hired an oncologist who visits the hospital once per month, with specialists in urology and cardiology visiting Childress Regional Medical Center on a similar schedule.
The hospital has also received a boost with telemedicine. Telemedicine allows physicians at Childress Regional Medical Center to consult with specialists at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, making it easier to handle complex cases.
For all of these reasons, Childress Regional Medical Center continues to be a notable success story in a state where rural hospitals face increasing challenges.
Haleyville, Alabama Hospital Reverses Closure After Community Funding Effort
Rural hospitals exist because of their communities. Sometimes, the community needs to save the hospital – not the other away around.
Such was the case in Haleyville, Alabama. In 2017, Lakeland Community Hospital in Haleyville, a town of around 4,000 people, announced it was closing down due to declining profits. After the closure, the closest emergency room would have been a 45-minute drive away.
The community banded together in response. Haleyville’s mayor, Ken Sunseri, began making calls to other hospitals in the region to explore how other legislators handled similar situations.
Mayor Sunseri repeatedly received similar advice: take ownership of the hospital and fight to keep it open – so that’s exactly what Haleyville did. Hospital employees worked extra shifts as the city worked to acquire the hospital from Tennessee-based Curae Health, which had recently filed for bankruptcy. Local authorities approved a 1% sales tax and an increase in county property tax to help fund the hospital.
Like rural Texas, rural Alabama has faced significant issues with hospital closures. The success story of Haleyville’s Lakeland Community Hospital shows it can take a community effort to save a rural hospital – but the effort is often worth it.
What’s Next for Rural Hospitals?
The success stories above show that rural hospitals can thrive even in uncertain times. While rural hospitals face challenges across the country, many hospitals continue to thrive, grow, and expand.
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