FAH Hospital Policy Blog

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

Medicaid | Medicare | Rural Hospitals | COVID-19 | Workforce | FAH Policy Blog Team

Rural Hospitals are Protecting Access to Care in Your Community 

Every day, across our nation, millions of Americans in small communities depend on rural hospitals for vital, and in some cases, lifesaving care.  

Equipped with advanced technology and expert staff, rural hospitals overcome constant challenges to deliver care close to home to an estimated 60 million people. As FAH celebrates Rural Hospital Week (November 14th – 18th), we are recognizing the impact these facilities and the caregivers who work there have on the patients they serve.  

Here are a few of their stories: 

Tennova Healthcare Newport Medical Center – Newport, TN (Community Health Systems) 

Newport Medical Center is the perfect example of a true rural hospital. It serves the residents of Newport and surrounding areas by providing emergency care and specialists in cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, radiology, and pediatrics. 

The proof is in the facility’s 2021 community benefit report. Thanks to the dedication of Newport Medical Center’s physicians, nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, lab techs, housekeepers, food service workers and others, patients received the medical care they needed in 2021 at more than 78,960 interactions with the hospital, outpatient clinics and physician offices. 

That includes: 

  • ER Patient Visits: 23,300 
  • Inpatient Admissions: 2,100 
  • Births: 160 
  • Surgeries: 3,400 

It also has a massive impact economically with an overall community benefit of $44.8 million, which includes $7.1 million in charity and uncompensated care to patients in need. 

Clinch Valley Medical Center – Richlands, VA (Lifepoint Health)  

Clinch Valley Medical Center is a 175-bed acute care rural hospital with a growing integrated network of care that offers many services and medical specialties for the community – all close to home. 

Recently, the hospital’s hereditary cancer program helped one of its own caregivers. 

Katelyn Bartley is a registered nurse at Clinch Valley and in 2015 her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It was discovered after testing that she was a carrier for the BRCA2 genetic mutation – something that could be passed along to Katelyn. Thankfully, her local hospital, which was also her employer, offered hereditary cancer testing.  

Katelyn made the decision to get tested and found out in 2018 that she was also positive for the genetic mutation. With the help of a hereditary cancer coordinator, Katelyn weighed her options and ultimately decided to have a bilateral mastectomy – and she had the surgery at her hospital. 

“I’m very blessed that I was able to have that done and lower my risk to what they now say is 2%. That allows me to get rid of that fear and live in the moment and enjoy my family and enjoy my baby… I feel like the best way to beat cancer is to prevent it. At Clinch Valley, you have that option.” 

Desert Valley Hospital – Victorville, CA (Prime Healthcare) 

Desert Valley Hospital is a 148-bed acute care hospital that provides state-of-the-art, quality health care. It is home to the area’s largest multi-specialty medical group and has the most efficient emergency department with Fast Track that significantly reduces patient wait times. 

Like every hospital in the nation, Desert Valley was challenged by a surge of COVID-19 patients – one of them was 33-year-old Miguel Rodriguez from Hesperia, CA.  

In March of this year, he was released from the hospital after battling COVID-19 for 128 days. Hospital staff applauded as he made his way toward his family and kissed his young son.  

The staff cared for him night and day, right through the holidays, never giving up hope that he would recover. 

“To be here hat long and to just never quite get him ready so he could leave, it was challenging for us. But it was our hope that he would get well and get to go home,” said one nurse upon his release.  

While Miguel doesn’t remember much, his wife says it was a long road to recovery. “I feel like we both won a battle. We were both fighting because I never once lost faith.” 

Both Miguel and his wife credit the staff at Desert Valley for his survival and expressed gratitude for having such comprehensive care so close to home.  

Conemaugh Meyersdale Medical Center – Meyersdale, PA (Lifepoint Health) 

Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, the flagship hospital of Conemaugh Health System, is a tertiary care regional referral hospital known for clinical excellence and nationally recognized patient outcomes. Conemaugh Memorial is the most technologically sophisticated hospital between Pittsburgh, PA and Hershey, PA and offers specialized services including a regional Level 1 Trauma Center, Level 3 Regional Intensive Care Nursery and high-risk obstetrical care. 

It is that expertise in emergency care that saved Mark Smith’s life in 2019. He was about to leave for a race car trade show in Indiana when felt he was having a heart attack.  

Mark was rushed to Conemaugh Meyersdale Medical Center. After some tests, the ER team discovered that Mark had a dissecting aneurysm. The aneurysm was life-threatening, and the doctors advised Mark to say goodbye to his loved ones before being transferred by MedStar to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center. 

Mark survived a complicated four and half hour surgery, then spent five days in recovery at the hospital before being able to go home with the support of home health. 

“Meyersdale Medical Center had the technology and equipment needed, and I know that I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Meyersdale Medical Center. A hospital can have all the high-tech stuff, but if they aren’t trained to use it, it’s useless. I’m so thankful for their training and experience. I know that I wouldn’t be here today without the trained staff at Meyersdale.” 

Oklahoma Heart Institute – Tulsa, OK (Ardent Health Services) 

The Oklahoma Heart Institute deployed new lifesaving technology to help seriously ill COVID-19 patients – even if they weren’t at the facility. 

The technology is called an ECMO machine, which stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. One of only three machines in the state, the ECMO at OHI acts as an artificial heart, an artificial lung or both, depending on the patient’s needs. 

The ECMO machine can also be placed in an ambulance, so health care providers can travel to a patient and connect them to the machine sooner, thereby saving hours of time, and often the patient’s life. 

That was the situation for Laiza Alley, 42, a medical support assistant at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee. She contracted COVID-19 in December 2020, just as the vaccines were being introduced. 

As her illness progressed, Alley started having trouble breathing, eventually being admitted to the local hospital with COVID-19 pneumonia. Due to her worsening condition, she was intubated, which meant a breathing tube was placed down her throat and oxygen was pushed into her lungs. Alley was also transferred to the ICU. 

“I was not doing well,” she said. “They had me on the highest level of oxygen and yet I was still gasping for air.” 

The ECMO team drove to Muskogee to place Laiza in the mobile ECMO ambulance for transfer back to OHI’s main campus in Tulsa. And even though she spent a month in the hospital, getting her on ECMO that quickly is credited with kickstarting her recovery.  

Both Laiza and her husband, John, remain very grateful to the entire ECMO team. 

“I was appreciative of the full team effort on their part,” said John. 

“The nurses were all so kind and always checked on me,” said Laiza.