FAH Hospital Policy Blog

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

Rural Hospitals | FAH Policy Blog Team

FAH Member Hospitals’ Community Partnerships in Rural America

This year in celebration of Rural Hospital Week (November 18-22), FAH is highlighting stories of cooperation from our member hospitals throughout rural America.

Small communities face different obstacles than their urban counterparts when it comes to health care delivery. With a more Medicare-dependent population and challenging geography, community leaders and hospitals are coming together to create unique partnerships that allow residents to take control of their own health. Below are just a few of the success stories seen at FAH member hospitals around the country:

1. Maria Parham Franklin FSED Opening

When Franklin Medical Center closed in 2015, the residents of Louisburg, North Carolina lost a critical access point for care. The 2018 opening of the new Maria Parham Franklin (MPF), a free-standing emergency department and geriatric psychiatric unit, restored critically important 24/7 emergency care, diagnostic services and behavioral health care to the community.

Since its opening, Maria Parham has added the Maria Parham Multispecialty Clinic for primary and specialty care and has broken ground on a 20-bed adult behavioral health unit that is set to open in early 2020.

“We are honored to restore vital health services to the communities of Louisburg, Franklin County and the surrounding areas,” says Bert Beard, chief executive officer of Maria Parham Health. “This project underscores our commitment to ensuring that high-quality healthcare is accessible close to home.”

The project was made possible by Duke LifePoint Healthcare, the Dorothea Dix Hospital Property Fund, the Golden Leaf Foundation and the North Carolina Department of Commerce through the North Carolina Community Development Block Grant.


2. Sovah Health – Danville/Community Health Workers Program

In 2016, Sovah Health, the Danville Regional Foundation, Gateway Health and other community partners joined together to launch the Community Health Workers (CHWs) program to address health disparities in southern Virginia’s Dan River Region.

CHWs are public health workers who serve as a vital link between health care, social services and members of the community to enhance access to services and improve health management. CHWs improve patients’ ability to manage their health – following a hospital stay or emergency room visit – through a series of activities, including outreach, community education, informal counseling, screenings, social support and advocacy.

As a result of the CHWs program, Sovah Health – Danville has seen a significant decline in readmissions and unnecessary emergency room visits. But the greatest payoff? Seeing patients take charge of their health.


3. Sovah Health – Martinsville/Harvest Foundation and PHCC Education Grant

Like other hospitals and health systems across the country, Sovah Health – Martinsville has been challenged by the nursing shortage in recent years. Hospital leadership met with other local community leaders from Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) and the Harvest Foundation to address this challenge. From those meetings, a big idea was born – to build a state-of-the-art Clinical Simulation Lab for Nursing Education. Thanks to a grant from the Harvest Foundation, PHCC – in partnership with Sovah Health – is set to open the lab at the hospital later this year.

The “Sim Lab” will feature the latest advanced patient simulator programs and equipment to provide valuable “hands-on” training for PHCC nursing students and current Sovah Health staff. Most importantly, the lab will be an important bridge between nursing students and the community’s largest healthcare provider and employer.

“We are thrilled to further our partnership with PHCC through the implementation of this cutting-edge technology in Martinsville,” says Jacquelyn Wilkerson, market chief nursing officer at Sovah Health. “This simulation lab will take our nurse education and training to the next level, ensuring our region has the highest clinically-trained workforce capable for the diverse healthcare needs of our community.”


4. UP Health System Rural Psychiatry Program Pilot

In rural areas, there is often a personal connection between a hospital and its patients, with healthcare facilities committed to providing the best care possible in numerous specialties. That can often mean enhancing a service line to fill a local care need. Every county in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) except Marquette is a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area for mental healthcare, based on the number of psychiatrists per capita. Primary care providers across the UP have reported that their patients encounter barriers in accessing behavioral care resources.

The pilot rural psychiatry residency program at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in Marquette is set to change that. A joint venture between four Michigan medical schools and the state itself, the program will help ensure that the UP has access to the psychiatric care necessary to meet the behavioral healthcare needs of its communities.

The program provides funding to expand residency positions where half of the instruction will occur in a rural site and is designed to help increase the number of behavioral care providers and improve care in the UP. The goal is to have two psychiatry residents each year graduate from the program and stay in the area to practice, beginning with the class of 2023.

“If the retention rate is as successful as the Family Medicine Residency Program (with 40 percent of graduates staying in the area long-term), there would be a positive impact on the way care is provided in this rural area within a few years,” said Stuart Johnson, DO, chief executive officer and community assistant dean, MSU College of Human Medicine UP Campus. “I am grateful for the way the State of Michigan is partnering with medical schools, residency programs and local providers, as well as the commitment from our local psychiatrists, to improve care in shortage areas like ours.”


5. Bolivar Medical Center ER Tours

In an effort to educate local school children on how to help a parent, grandparent or any other person who may be in need of emergent care, Cleveland, Mississippi’s Bolivar Medical Center staff and paramedics, along with Pafford Medical Services EMS, led groups of second and fifth graders from local elementary schools through Bolivar’s Emergency Department, Imaging Department and an ambulance.

A cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was demonstrated, and chest pain was emphasized as a focus topic during the tours. The paramedics led an engaging conversation to ensure that the children understood what constitutes an emergency and how Bolivar Medical Center and Pafford can help. They were able to view a trauma room and see how care is administered during an emergency, and were shown how x-ray and CT machines work. Paramedics also led them through the inside of an ambulance to educate them on how much can take place in the vehicle. These tours take place annually, and approximately 40 children attend each year.