By Kathy Hubbard
Toot. Toot. Toot. Can you hear the horn blowing? For the second year in a row, Bonner General Health has been recognized in the top 100 of Critical Access Hospitals in the nation.
By the numbers, there are 27 CAHs in Idaho and only four of them are on this list that is compiled by iVantage Health Analytics a leading advisory and business analytic services company. There are 1,332 Critical Access Hospitals in the U.S.
“Within rural healthcare, there is no better illustration of the value these facilities provide than the Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals,” states iVantage’s website. “Amidst uncertainty, transition and strain, these hospitals are excelling in managing risk, achieving high quality outcomes and patient satisfaction and operating with lower costs and charges than their peers.”
So, you might ask, what is a Critical Access Hospital? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Rural Assistance Center says, “Critical Access Hospital” is a designation given to certain rural hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This designation was created by Congress in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act in response to a string of hospital closures in the 1980s and early 1990s.
“The CAH designation is designed to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and improve access to healthcare by keeping essential services in rural communities. This is accomplished through cost-based Medicare reimbursement.”
HealthIT.gov’s website explains the benefits: “Almost one fifth of the US population lives in a rural area. Critical Access Hospitals provide vital services in rural areas and often serve as the foundations of rural health care delivery systems. Residents of rural areas face barriers to accessing health care services that include traveling long distances to seek care. Since rural hospitals are often the sole local source for patient care in rural communities, they are more likely to offer additional services that otherwise would not be accessible to residents.”
To fit the criteria, a CAH must be located in a rural area more than 35 miles from another hospital; must have a 24-hour, 7-day per week emergency department with on-site or on-call staff; have 25 inpatient beds and are limited to an average length of stay of four days.
“To improve care for patients residing in rural areas, rural hospitals are expected to:
• Improve access to services, including urgent care services, and meet unmet community health needs in isolated rural communities
• Engage rural communities in rural health care system development
• Develop collaborative delivery stems in rural communities as the hubs of rural health care
• Create transitions of care coordination with urban health care system alignment
• Be the subject matter experts and coordinators for the health care environment of providers, patients and staff”
Needless to say, the administration and staff at BGH are delighted to receive this accolade. Some hospitals’ futures were and continue to be tenuous. In the last ten years, 50 rural hospitals have closed and right now another 283 are at risk for closure.
“If these vulnerable hospitals were to close, the impact would be significant: 700,000 Medicare patients alone would have to seek care farther from home, 86,000 jobs could be lost in rural communities and it would result in an estimated $10.6 billion loss to the GDP,” HealthIT says.
Wipe your brow. We don’t have to worry about that. Bonner General Health is growing and continuing to fill the healthcare needs of our community.
Achievement awards are nice, don’t get me wrong, but the best endorsements are the ones we get from you, the members of our rural community who we serve with skill and compassion every day of the year. You know, we’re here for the health of it!
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.