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Rural Hospital in New York Rising to Challenges

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   October 18, 2021

Bon Secours Community Hospital is maintaining financial sustainability and working through a $40 million revitalization project.

Bon Secours Community Hospital in Port Jervis, New York, is bucking the trend of struggling rural hospitals.

Rural hospitals across the country are facing multiple challenges—most notably financial woes and workforce shortages. As of July 2021, the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina reported that 138 rural hospitals had closed since 2010.

"Rural hospitals face financial challenges. In general, rural hospitals rely heavily on government support and that adds to the challenges these hospitals are facing," says Mary Leahy, MD, MHA, CEO of Bon Secours Charity Health System, which operates three acute care hospitals including Bon Secours Community Hospital. Bon Secours Charity Health System is part of Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth).

Rural hospitals face multiple challenges, she says.

"If we start with the people who are living in rural areas, access to rural healthcare is a major issue. When we look at how rural hospitals struggle with low patient volumes, that causes financial hardships for rural hospitals. Another challenge is keeping up with technology—making sure that we have appropriate technology so we can continue to recruit and retain young healthcare talent. When you are talking about rural hospitals, where patients have challenges with transportation and they often must travel long distances to a hospital, it makes the challenge of operating a rural hospital much greater," Leahy says.

Bon Secours Community Hospital has been able to rise to its financial challenges, she says.

"We offset low revenue predominantly with grant funding and funding opportunities through our foundation. Despite the financial challenge, we are trying to provide services so that we can keep care local. We do not want patients to feel that they must leave the area to get the care that they need. That attracts patients to come to our facility, which boosts patient volume. There are also benefits to being part of WMCHealth. They make sure that we are financially sound and can provide all of the services that are necessary to operate a rural hospital," Leahy says.

Grant funding has enabled the hospital to carry out an ambitious $40 million revitalization initiative. "We applied for a state grant and received $24.5 million. It is a $40 million project and we have been very fortunate in the grant money we have received," she says.

The rest of the financing for the revitalization initiative, which is also known as the medical village project, has come from several sources, Leahy says. "We have had other grant opportunities through various private foundations and New York State programs. We have also utilized our fundraising arm to raise money. We are also supporting the project with operations money from Bon Secours Charity Health System and WMCHealth."

The medical village project is making major upgrades to Bon Secours Community Hospital, she says. "Part of our $40 million renovation plan is expanding the emergency department to 10,000 square feet, including behavioral health areas. We have new observation areas for patients who may not need to be inpatients. We are looking at private rooms, which is important for infection control and patient satisfaction. One of the highlights of the medical village project is a brand new, state-of-the-art imaging area that we have established in partnership with Philips. Again, this will attract talent by making sure that young doctors have the tools that they need to provide care."

Committed to accountable care

Bon Secours Charity Health System has established an accountable care organization that helps Bon Secours Community Hospital provide high quality, coordinated care for Medicare fee-for-service patients, Leahy says.

"We are an accountable care organization, and we have strong care management capabilities. We have teams that focus on transitions of care and provide outreach into the community. We make sure that patients who are discharged from the hospital or discharged from the emergency department have what they need to get back to good health. We make sure they do not fall through the cracks and fail to get a follow-up appointment with a primary care provider. We make sure they have access to a specialist if necessary," she says.

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Bon Secours Community Hospital boosts its finances with combination of grant funding, hospital foundation funding, community fundraising, and support from its parent organization, Westchester Medical Center Health Network.

More than half of the funding for the hospital's $40 million revitalization project is coming from a New York State grant.

The hospital is part of an accountable care organization, which helps the facility to provide high quality, coordinated care to Medicare fee-for-service patients.

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