Indiana hospitals rank high in serving rural, remote areas

They are small hospitals, usually in remote areas, located at least 35 miles away from the next nearest hospital.

Indiana has about three dozen of them, known as “critical access hospitals”a designation given to certain rural hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that serve residents who would otherwise be a long distance from emergency care.

But while they are not usually included in lists of the nation’s most prestigious medical centers, they now have another distinction.

This month, Indiana ranked among the top 10 states with the top-performing critical access hospitals. The hospitals were measured by highest performing rates and levels of improvement over the past year, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Indiana came in at No. 9, behind Wisconsin, Maine, Utah, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Nebraska.

“Rural hospitals are key safety-net providers in their communities and it is important that we make every effort to provide the highest quality of care to individuals living in rural communities,” Dr. George Sigounas, HRSA administrator, said in a written statement.

Critical acess hospitals get extra federal funding to help keep their doors open. The designation was created by Congress in 1997 in response to a string of hospital closures in the 1980s and 90s.

Nationally, there are 1,341 critical access hospitals in 45 states. Indiana has more of them than just 14 other states.

In Indiana, the critical access hospitals have names like Woodlawn Hospital in Rochester, Jay County Hospital in Portland and Adams Memorial Hospital in Decatur.

Even some large health systems operate small, critical access hospitals, often as feeders for their larger facilities. Examples include small IU Health hospitals in Hartford City, Paoli and Tipton; St. Vincent hospitals in Bedford, Winchester, Brazil and Elwood; and a Franciscan Alliance hospital in Rensselaer.

Critical access hospitals often serve poor areas and rely heavily on Medicaid funding. Each has a maximum of 25 beds, provides 24/7 emergency care service and has an annual average length of stay of 96 hours or less for acute care patients.

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