Miss. hospitals can switch status to ‘Rural Emergency Hospitals’

Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 7:19 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON CO., Miss. (WLBT) - As the state continues to struggle with a healthcare crisis, the Mississippi Department of Health is working to make sure hospitals in your area stay open.

We’ve seen numerous hospitals facing the reality of closing — specifically in the Mississippi Delta.

However, a new program could keep those who have been on the edge from shutting their doors for good.

The status of Mississippi’s hospitals has been a persistent concern for not only residents across the state but also for the Department of Health.

“We must have hospitals that are healthy to provide that higher level of care for their regions,” said Dr. Daniel Edney.

Their solution was to implement a federal designation hospitals can apply for called Rural Emergency Hospitals.

Jefferson County Hospital in Fayette is one of a few that’s been approved.

“Rural Emergency Hospitals are just what it says. It’s an emergency aspect of care. The patient is able to come in and be seen rapidly,” said CEO of Jefferson County Hospital Linda St. Julien.

The critical part of the designation?

A REH is not eligible to provide inpatient services, and they must transfer emergency room patients to larger hospitals.

“They’re allowed to monitor patients for up to 24 hours,” Dr. Edney said. “And so if the patient is not improved enough for discharge, then they had to be transferred to a higher level of care.”

“We’re partnering with UMMC for an emergency,” Julien said. “If we get a patient that comes in that has had a heart attack or a stroke, they will get sent there immediately.”

In return for the cut, REHs get a nearly $3.2 million stipend spread out over a year to keep their doors open and support vital parts of their hospitals.

“We will be able to receive funding continuously, and we get a higher rate for, like, our clinic-type patients,” Julien said.

Jefferson County Hospital won’t just be using the stipend to survive but open a new mental health clinic, a pulmonary clinic, and a family practice clinic.

“The inpatient service line is not really serving very much purpose, and it’s costing a lot of money. This is an opportunity for them to pivot and to remain financially sustainable,” said Dr. Edney.

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