Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Small Hospitals in Okla. Make Large Impact on Community Care

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Small Hospitals in Okla. Make Large Impact on Community Care

Article excerpt

The economic impact of Weatherford's new critical access Regional Hospital was quickly felt as its staff grew from about 100 people just a few years ago to more than 160 now and continues to attract physicians, Chief Executive Debbie Howe said.

Darrel Morris, chief executive at Drumright Regional Hospital, saw similar growth when his hospital opened in 2005 - "In terms of economic development, you create 60-70 jobs in a community the size of Drumright - about 2,900 - it's a big impact," he said.

Oklahoma Office of Rural Health Director Val Schott said Drumright and Weatherford are two good examples of the value of building new hospitals to provide critical access care to small communities, even in a recession. The health care experts are scheduled to attend this week's 2009 Rural Health Conference in Midwest City.

"There is a niche for these small hospitals, and in my view we can (do) a better job in some of these rural hospitals than in the big cities," Schott said. "They're extremely valuable to their communities and well worth the investment, even now."

A critical access hospital, or CAH, is certified to receive cost- based Medicare reimbursements under a more flexible set of participation conditions than other acute care hospitals. Congress' goal in creating the system was to improve those small hospitals' financial performances and reduce closures, Schott said. To earn the designation, a CAH must be at least 35 miles from the next-closest hospital, have no more than 25 beds and the average patients' stay is no more than 96 hours.

According to the state Department of Health, 34 of Oklahoma's 97 non-special hospitals are considered critical access facilities, the sole community emergency health providers for their surrounding communities.

Schott said in most cases it's possible for a hospital to fund upgrades and conversion to a CAH, but many towns have stepped up to help because of the need for improved health care and economic development. …

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