1st hospitals line up for new rural hospital designation

The first hospitals seeking CMS' new rural emergency hospital designation have submitted their applications, Kaiser Health News reported March 6. 

Hospitals that convert receive a 5 percent increase in Medicare payments as well an average annual facility fee payment of about $3.2 million, according to the report. In return, the hospitals must close their inpatient beds and focus solely on outpatient and emergency care. 

The hospitals showing immediate interest have three or fewer patients staying overnight at any given time and have typically given up maternity care long ago to save on expenses, according to the report. 

One hospital in the Stillwater (Okla.) Medical system — an outpost in Perry, Okla. — has already applied for the designation, according to the report. Another in Blackwell, Okla., will likely do the same. 

Stillwater Medical Chief Administrative Officer Steven Taylor said the switch makes sense for the two hospitals that have struggled financially, according to the report. He said the most important thing for the small communities where the hospitals are located is to keep emergency services.   

Guadalupe County Hospital in Santa Rosa, N.M., is another that has already applied for the designation, according to the report. Despite the help of a tax levy, the hospital has lost more than $1 million in the past six months. 

"For years, we've been anticipating kind of our own demise, praying that a program would come along and make us sustainable," Guadalupe County Hospital Administrator Christina Campos told the outlet. 

A two-bed facility in Crosbyton, Texas, recently became the first in the state to get approval for the new designation. John Henderson, president and chief executive of the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals, told the outlet that several more of the state's 158 rural hospitals have applied, are applying or are considering the conversion. 

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