FMCH receives ‘critical access’ designation

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 19, 2002

CENTREVILLE &045; Field Memorial Community Hospital has been designated as a Critical Access Hospital &045; a status which allows rural, limited-service medical facilities to qualify for enhanced Medicare reimbursements.

FMCH administrator Brock Slabach said CAH status means patient volume will no longer be the controlling factor in collecting Medicare payments.

&uot;We are now reimbursed on the cost of providing care, and not on the volume of patients we see.

Email newsletter signup

It removes the problem of patient census, which can fluctuate wildly in a rural hospital,&uot; Slabach said.

FMCH is one of nine hospitals in Mississippi with CAH designation, which Congress created through the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

&uot;Obviously, a one-size-fits-all approach is inappropriate.

I think Congress created the program to address the problems that rural hospitals face,&uot; Slabach said.

The change is significant for FMCH, which depends heavily on Medicare payments.

&uot;It can make or break us,&uot; said Slabach, who estimated that Medicare payments account for up to 70 percent of the hospital’s revenue.

Slabach said FMCH has to meet certain federal and state criteria to qualify as a CAH facility.

&uot;We are limited to 15 acute-care, inpatient beds, and 10 skilled nursing or swing beds,&uot; Slabach said.

&uot;Also, we are allowed to admit up to nine additional patients for observation for up to 24 hours.&uot;

Federal regulations also require that CAH units be non-profit or public hospitals located at least 35 miles by primary roads from another hospital.

Additionally, CAH facilities must provide 24-hour emergency services and limit the average length of hospital stays to 96 hours.

Slabach said FMCH also had to submit to a survey by the State Board of Health in September.

This month, FMCH was given the Mississippi Hospital Association’s 2002 Rural Health Care Award for its work in converting to a CAH facility.