A rural hospital making big moves

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | July 23, 2021
From the July 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

KB: I think it’s pretty unusual. In this day and age, what we’re typically seeing in smaller rural hospitals — many are operating in the red. The last study I read from the National Rural Health Association was that 46% of rural hospitals are operating in the red. And healthcare is a business. As any business goes, if they are unable to maintain a profitability to keep their heads above water and being able to sustain that is not happening, they only have a couple of options. The best option to avoid closing the hospital altogether is to affiliate with a larger institution. The larger institution will probably enable more specialists to be out to your hospital so that your community health can be served without their driving a long distance, but in the long run, sometimes you may lose your identity of being a rural hometown hospital.

Fairfield Memorial Hospital
For us, we are adjacent to two counties that do not have a hospital. We’re the only hospital in Wayne County, there’s no hospital in Edward or White counties. Our borders are anchored together. So when I look at how many lives I’m trying to have a positive impact on, it’s not just Wayne County, it’s 42,000 lives. I look at that and think, “we can do this.” We’re performing in the black and have been every year I’ve been here, and we’re growing. We’re bringing in a lot of specialists, we’re building. I feel if the time is right, we’ll know it, but that time isn’t today.

HCB News: What attracts staff?
KB: One of the things I feel we’re very good with is growing our own. By that I mean, what I do — I try to go out and identify young people through various degrees of their education and determine who would be a good fit to want to come back home to work in our hospital. When I do that, I immediately go into contractual negotiations with them to help offset the cost of their education. For instance, we have two physical therapists, I was able to get one in that manner. We have one pharamacist, I was able to get him in that manner. I have 11 midlevel, most of them I helped with their education. Fifty percent of our medical staff, I’ve been able to help with some form of their education. These people are identified early, they realize we are investing in their education because they’ve shown the skills, the leadership and the intellect throughout their lives. They represent what we want our patients to see and feel — to have that hometown feeling, but one of competence and professionalism. We’ve been very successful at that. Right now, I have seven different physicians in various stages of their education. This summer we’re getting our orthopedic surgeon, in July. We’ve been helping with his medical school education. Next summer, I’ll have an emergency physician come out of school, a general surgeon, and a family practitioner. A couple of years later, I’ll have another emergency practitioner and another surgeon. All of these people are from Wayne County or counties close by.

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