3 hospitals mulling rural emergency hospital conversions

CMS recently announced the final rule for the emergency rural hospital designation, which is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2023. 

The rural emergency hospital designation aims to curb rural hospital closures by offering them a chance to close infrequently used inpatient beds and focus on providing outpatient and emergency department services.

Here are three hospitals that are considering converting to rural emergency hospitals:

Blessing Health Keokuk: The Iowa hospital was shuttered on Sept. 30, but the final rule from CMS clarified that facilities that were critical access hospitals or rural hospitals with fewer than 50 beds as of Dec. 27, 2020, and then subsequently closed are eligible to seek the rural emergency hospital designation. 

Iowa lawmakers Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks said in an Oct. 5 letter to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure that there is a strong desire from Keokuk community leaders for the hospital to become a rural emergency hospital in the future.

St. Margaret's Health: In an Oct. 10 letter to community members, the Illinois health system said it is pursuing converting one of its two hospitals — located in Spring Valley and Peru — to a rural emergency hospital. The other would remain a full-service hospital. 

The system said that based on the potential rural emergency hospital opportunity, it has placed a hold on its application with state regulators to discontinue emergency and inpatient services at St. Margaret's Health-Spring Valley. It said it is actively working with state legislators to facilitate the incorporation of the rural emergency hospital designation into the Illinois Hospital Licensing Act. 

Sturgis (Mich.) Hospital: Sturgis is planning to convert to a rural emergency facility beginning January 2023, the Sturgis Journal reported Sept. 7. The hospital was on the verge of closing when the Michigan Hospital Association suggested it convert to a rural emergency facility. 

Sturgis Hospital CFO Bobby Morin said 80 percent of the hospital's revenue comes from outpatient services, and a sizable portion of its expenses comes from the inpatient side. 

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