FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America's hospitals and the patients we serve.

Rural Hospitals | FAH Policy Blog Team

Care Close to Home – FAH Celebrates Rural Hospital Week 2023 

Every day, across our nation, millions of Americans in small communities depend on rural hospitals for crucial, and in some cases, lifesaving care. These facilities are often the sole comprehensive health provider in these areas – from primary care to advanced specialties. FAH is celebrating that unique role during Rural Hospital Week 2023 by highlighting several impactful hospitals from across the country (see stories below).  

Despite the vital services they provide to their communities, rural hospitals are in trouble with nearly 150 closing since 2010. One of the biggest problems is the patients they serve are generally older and from lower-income backgrounds, relying heavily on Medicare and Medicaid. These hospitals also have a smaller volume of patients.  And partly because of the high reliance on federal health programs with lower reimbursement levels, these facilities are financially vulnerable. 

That is why we are urging lawmakers to step up and extend a lifeline to rural hospitals.  

It starts by making permanent two key rural hospital payment policies – the Low-Volume Hospital (LVH) and Medicare-dependent Hospital (MDH) Programs. Congress should also rein in insurer abuse of the Medicare Advantage program. Delays and denials of care through prior authorization, coupled with low reimbursement rates put patients’ access to care at risk as facilities struggle to keep their doors open. This will only be made worse by so-called site-neutral policies, which have been proposed by some on Capitol Hill. This ‘one-size-fits-all’ payment approach will have an outsized impact in rural areas where a high percentage of patients depend on hospital outpatient departments for necessary care. 

Lawmakers need to understand the real-world effects of these policies. Below are stories from across the country that show what rural hospitals and their affiliated facilities mean to their communities and the patients they care for: 

Jefferson Memorial Hospital – Tennova Healthcare 

Jefferson Memorial Hospital, located in Jefferson City, Tennessee, is a cornerstone of the community that not only cares for thousands of patients each year but is also a significant contributor to the economic health of the area. As a major employer and taxpayer and through the resources it uses to expand and enhance the medical services available close to home, the hospital’s overall impact is significant and total more than $73.5million in 2022. 

Jefferson Memorial, operated by FAH member Community Health Systems, provides 58 hospital beds, employs 213 medical staff and last year had more than 120,000 patient interactions between its hospital, outpatient clinics and physician offices. A closer look shows the true lifesaving impact with nearly 26,000 emergency department visits, more than 2,300 inpatient admissions and 6,300 surgeries. 

LewisGale Hospital Pulaski 

Despite its rural location, LGHP, located in Pulaski, Virginia, is home to one of the largest comprehensive cancer centers in the state. The Sarah Cannon Cancer Center at LewisGale Hospital Pulaski treats over 650 patients and performs more than 12,000 oncology treatments annually. The hospital has invested nearly $10M over the past 6 years to install two Varian TrueBeam linear accelerators – the most state-of-the-art radiation oncology equipment available.  

Additionally, the facility’s inpatient behavioral health unit, which opened in 2019, cares for more than 600 patients per year with mental health and substance use disorders. 

LGHP, operated by FAH member HCA Healthcare, provides 147 hospital beds, 375 employees and affiliated staff, and 50 affiliated physicians. It treats an average of 18,000 patients in its emergency department, admits more than 2,000 inpatients, and performs more than 2,000 surgeries annually. 

Logan Regional Medical Center 

LRMC, located in Logan, West Virginia, is crucial to keeping residents in this small community healthy from the moment they are born. At a time when maternal care is disappearing in rural areas, it has three labor suites and a nine-bed nursery. The hospital’s emergency department (ED) includes 22 rooms, a portable X-ray unit, a CAT scan, a portable ultrasound, X-ray rooms and three trauma rooms. The ED also has PACS Technology, which allows physicians to make consultations 24 hours a day with radiologists at other facilities across the country. 

LRMC, operated by FAH member ScionHealth, provides 132 hospital beds, approximately 700 employees and in 2022 had 4,309 inpatient visits and treated another 90,000+ in outpatient departments. 

Lovelace Regional Hospital 

Despite its small size, Lovelace Regional Hospital, located in Roswell, New Mexico, provides specialized therapy for those with autism – recently helping two children in one family increase their communications skills. Lovelace Regional also has a specially accredited orthopaedics practice and received an ‘A’ safety grade in the Spring 2023 National Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report. 

Lovelace Regional Hospital, operated by FAH member Ardent Health Services, provides 27 hospital beds, 200 employees and in 2022 had 1,495 inpatient admissions and treated nearly 40,000 people in affiliated outpatient departments. The lifesaving impact doesn’t stop there – 4,010 surgeries were performed at Lovelace Regional, along with 633 births and 14,000+ were treated in its emergency department. 

Ottumwa Regional Health Center

Ottumwa Regional, located in Ottumwa, Iowa, offers robotic assisted surgery through its robotically trained surgeons and da Vinci robotic surgical system and is 1 of 2 hospitals within a 50-mile radius that offers both obstetrics and psychiatric services, including inpatient behavioral health services. Additionally, the facility recently invested in cutting-edge medical technology to better serve the Ottumwa community. This includes a new cardiac catheterization lab and a top-of-the-line linear accelerator for the radiation oncology department, which is relied upon by people from around the region, as far away as Missouri and western Illinois, for cancer treatment. As the only cancer center in the area, Ottumwa Regional sees 20 cancer patients every day, supporting nearly 100 treatments each week. The hospital has partnered with the University of Iowa to help ensure radiation oncology and physicist coverage, ensuring that people in the areas have access to cancer treatments close to home.  

Ottumwa Regional Health Center, operated by FAH member Lifepoint Health, provides 85 hospital beds, 470 employees and in 2022 had 2,100 inpatient admissions and treated 50,250 patients overall.

Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center  

Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center, located in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, received the American College of Cardiology’s NCDR Chest Pain ̶ MI Registry Platinum Performance Achievement Award for 2023. PBRMC is one of only 262 hospitals nationwide to receive the honor, which recognizes its commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients. This year the hospital also added a nurse practitioner to its cardiology team and one general cardiologist to its staff. Additionally, PBRMC offers patients access to one of the world’s smallest leadless pacemakers, comparable in size to a large vitamin.  

The facility also offers comprehensive treatment in many other areas, including cancer care, maternal care and orthopedics.  

Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center, operated by FAH member Community Health Systems, provides 410 hospital beds, and 185 physicians on staff and treated 341,000 patients in 2022. Those include 41,300 emergency department visits, 10,200 inpatient admissions, 1,200 births and 8,300 surgeries. 

Willamette Valley Medical Center

Willamette Valley Medical Center, located in McMinnville, Oregon, offers several specialty services, including senior behavioral health services, a family birthing center, wound care and an advanced certified joint replacement program. The facility is an accredited Chest Pain Center by the American College of Cardiology’s Accreditation Services.

Plus, this year Willamette Valley Medical Center announced a $9 million expansion to the H.R. Hoover, MD, Cancer Center. This will bring the latest technology in cancer care to this small community, increasing treatment capabilities and the opportunity to expand cancer treatment support services.

Willamette Valley Medical Center, operated by FAH member Lifepoint Health, provides 60 hospital beds, 480 employees and treated over 105,000 patients in 2022. This includes 2,630 inpatient admissions, 23,758 emergency department visits and 3,063 surgeries.