Critical access hospitals are having a very hard time right now. These hospitals often serve rural populations with valuable medical services where there aren’t the volumes needed to be profitable. So many are operating at a great loss, and 102 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. The number continues to climb.
However, our own critical access hospital, Powell Valley Healthcare, operated in the black throughout 2018.
At a time so many rural areas are losing healthcare services, PVHC manages to hang on in a very tough industry. The organization is not just maintaining its financial health and continuing to provide valuable services, it’s expanding and improving those services.
This spring, the hospital began a $1.7 million renovation to its emergency department. It’s an expensive project, and one of its major components is improving privacy and security for patients. Built in the 1980s when these were not priority concerns, the hospital is going to a lot of trouble for an upgrade that’s patient-centered.
The design will have aspects that streamline the work nurses do, but even those parts of the plan are directed at improving patients’ experience.
The hospital is also embarking on a community paramedicine program. This program will expand the role paramedics play in community healthcare, while avoiding duplicating services. It, too, is all about efficiently providing better community health services.
It’s not just an idea: Two paramedics have already received the specialized training required to implement this program, and the hospital is beginning outreach to figure out the best way to serve the community with this new service.
Early this year, PVHC embarked on the addition of a $600,000 retail pharmacy, which will include a drive-up window. PVHC pursued the project in response to feedback from patients over how difficult it was to get outpatient prescriptions filled.
Before Shopko announced it was ceasing operations altogether, the company had planned the closure of its pharmacy, which would have left Powell with a single pharmacy. The PVHC pharmacy project is supported with public funding, and in announcing it, PVHC officials said they were going to take steps to avoid competing with the privately owned Powell Drug. Assuming it keeps that commitment, the pharmacy will provide more options for patients and therefore better health in the community.
Despite the demands these expansions place upon PVHC employees’ time, and the inconvenience of the construction, the staff shows a lot of dedication and pride in pursuing these improvements. No doubt, not every patient’s experience is positive, but as many rural areas lose their healthcare providers, Powell is fortunate to have one that’s continuing to expand and improve where it can.