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Carroll County Memorial Hospital was the setting for a panel discussion by the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health & Human Services on Tuesday, June 19. This is a national organization that conducted a site visit at CCMH and discussed the impact of health care infrastructure changes on rural communities.
The panel, consisting of a diverse group of physicians, hospital administrators and researchers, was appointed by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. They are charged with advising the Secretary on current health issues, with a special focus on rural facilities, stated Aaron Wingad, spokesman for the group.
“We are trying to get to different regions of the country,” he added, “especially ones that are relevent to people in rural areas.
“With the advent of health reform changes, they hope to narrow down specifics, such as the problem of how the government will pay for rural health services and what should rural healthcare look like.”
CCMH was recommended by the Missouri Hospital Association and for participation in the panel discussion and interviewed with the Department of Rural Health.
Regional hospitals represented at the meeting were from Fairfax, Sullivan County, Chillicothe, Marshall, Hermann and Sedalia.
“The committee was seeking input on rules and regulations as they pertain to the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) and Sole Community Provider (SCP) facilities,” stated Shannon Jordan, COO at CCMH. “This committee is faced with providing a position on the recommended $6 billion savings by eliminating special designation of CAH. Participants provided a harsh reality of the impact on rural communities that these facilities serve.”
Wingad stated that the group hoped to reach out to stakeholders in small communities, to work together to write policy that will protect rural communities, making sure they have acces to quality health services.
At the panel, members addressed two main questions: “How should the Secretary determine what special payment designations are truly essential and what factors should drive this determination to ensure access to care” and “Given that some changes may be inevitable, are there alternative ways to deliver essential services in rural areas.”
“We want to protect access to rural health facilities and give a rural voice as we develop policies,” Wingad added.
A similar group traveled to Hiawatha, KS, and Ottawa, KS, on the same day to meet with regional hospital personnel in those areas.
by Janet Zullig