by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | September 29, 2023
Aiming to preserve access to healthcare in rural communities, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has awarded a $4.5 million grant to four hospitals deemed critical to these populations.
Governor Greg Abbott (R.) announced that the four are eligible to receive up to $1.1 million under the Texas Rural Emergency Hospitals Financial Stabilization Grant, the funds of which will be distributed over two years to each for repairs, paying off debts, purchasing or renting equipment, and operational expenses.
The four providers include Crosbyton Clinic Hospital, Anson General Hospital, Falls Community Hospital and Clinic in Marlin, and St. Marks Medical Center in La Grange. For the first year, they will receive $750,000, followed by $375,000 for the second.
“Through the newly created State Office of Rural Health Finance, we are going to work fast to support rural hospitals in staying open so Texans get the healthcare they deserve,” said HHSC chief financial officer Trey Wood in a statement.
The grant is awarded to a hospital designated earlier this year as a Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The REH model is designed to preserve access to critical and emergent outpatient services in areas that are not financially able to support community hospitals. Under the program, a medical center cannot offer inpatient services. The new status provides each with a 5% increase in Medicare reimbursements and monthly facility fees for operational cost increases, including labor and supplies.
According to KFF Health News
, Crosbyton Clinic Hospital only has two beds that are not always occupied and has had trouble retaining staff. Locals have hosted bake sales and garage sales to keep its emergency room and primary care services open.
Anson General Hospital has seen its expenses surpass its revenue streams since the pandemic. In becoming an REH hospital, the provider discontinued its inpatient services, cut about 20% of its staff, and now breaks even when adjusting for lost inpatient revenue, reported BigCountryHomepage.com
, the official website of local news programs, KTAB and KRBC.
St. Marks Medical Center cut its inpatient services and let go of 64 employees for the same reason. It also discontinued its surgical services, post-acute skilled rehab care, orthopedic clinic, ambulatory care, and speech therapy, according to KVUE-TV
HHSC provides grant funding and administers programs for rural facilities in accordance with the Rural Hospital Services Strategic Plan to ensure rural Texans have access to hospital services. Earlier this year, Abbott and the Texas legislature appropriated $25 million annually for rural hospitals, starting September 1, 2023.
The hospitals have until October 13 to apply for the grant.