How Field Clinics Reduce One Hospital's ED Strain

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, May 11, 2011

Amidst fields of cotton, cabbage, and other northeastern North Carolina crops, volunteer nurses and others set up camp to provide services to the area's migrant and seasonal farm workers. They arrive in the evening, just as the workers are coming out of the fields, with care tables and coolers of ice water and snacks, standing ready to monitor blood pressure and glucose levels, run TB skin tests, or perform rapid HIV screenings.

According to an HHS report released this week, uninsured families can only afford to pay in full for about 12% of hospital stays, resulting in tens of billions of dollars worth of uncompensated care each year.

Elizabeth City, NC-based Albemarle Health is no exception: According to its 2010 annual report, it provided nearly $27.5 million in unreimbursed community care.

Rural hospitals and health systems throughout the country face this same challenge, and the best solutions are unique and based on the specific needs of the regions that they serve.

"We're constantly assessing what's going on in the community and figuring out, 'How can we address it?'" Nancy Easterday, RN, MBA, executive director of safety net clinics at Albemarle Health, said in an interview. "Northeast North Carolina is very rural, very agricultural, has limited access to four-lane highways. We're either covered by farmland or swampland, and that definitely affects our programs and services."

Alexandra Wilson Pecci

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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