Losing Hospitals

- SHAMROCK, Texas -- For hundreds of people, each year, the Shamrock General Hospital means a chance at critical care along I-40.

The CEO and Administrator at Shamrock General Hospital, Wiley Fires says their emergency room sees anywhere from 140-200 patients, each month.

But, caring for patients who need immediate attention is just one responsibility; the 70 employees not only treat the sick, they care for the elderly, as well.

Shamrock City Manager David Rushing tells us that the hospital is one of the county's top five employers.

Shamrock General Hospital is one of 81 "Critical Access Hospitals" in Texas that receives a 101% reimbursement for medicare and one of 60 that could lose that designation.

Don McBeath the Director of Government Relations for the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals explains it like this, "The federal government came up with the idea you could save some money if you take away the special designation that some of these rural hospitals have."

And if it does disappear, Fires says for his hospital, it would be a devastating $1.3 million loss, per year.

Fires said, "That designation was a God send. We struggled and struggled to keep this hospital open and that designation helped us to become stable. And now, we're stable financially and we're growing."

But with a federal budget that needs to be balanced Congressman Mac Thornberry says he understands the appeal.

Thornberry said, "That's what I'm concerned about with this, that it's going to be a fight where these legislators are always trying to cut costs. And they'll be looking to these rural hospitals to save money, frankly. And that's something we're going to have to fight." 

One hospital consultant who works for another CAH, the Hardemon County Memorial Hospital in Quanah, says for rural hospitals to survive the prescription is a dose of prevention.
Consultant Dave Clark explains what his hospital has had to do to not only maintain services, but also work to get out of Chapter Nine bankruptcy, "We've really brought services down to the core mission of healthcare that is to serve medicare and medicaid. If I do that i get paid much more and if I stay within that score my changes of success are great."

But with no legislation in the works to require a re-application, for now, widespread critical access hospitals are able to provide jobs, and most importantly save lives.

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