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Application to designate Lee County Community Hospital as ‘Critical Access Hospital’ submitted
Ballad Health has submitted the application to get the new Lee County Community Hospital – America’s newest rural hospital – designated as a “Critical Access Hospital” by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The hospital is scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2020.
Earlier this month, Ballad Health received confirmation that the Virginia Department of Health had received the application and started the review process at the state level. From there, the state will make a recommendation on the application to the federal government.
“Receiving this designation would be a huge accomplishment for the new Lee County Community Hospital. If approved, it will allow us to enhance access and improve quality of care for the residents of Lee County,” said Monty McLaurin, vice president for Ballad Health.
“Ballad Health is committed to reopening Lee County Community Hospital and bringing healthcare services back to this community, and filing our application brings us one step closer.”
The Critical Access Hospital designation, created by Congress in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, is meant to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and improve access to healthcare by keeping essential services in rural communities. To accomplish that goal, Critical Access Hospitals receive certain benefits, such as cost-based reimbursement of Medicare and Medicaid services.
“I remain impressed by the commitment of Ballad Health to reopen our hospital and return important healthcare services to our community,” said Ronnie Montgomery, chairman of the Lee County Hospital Authority.
“I thank everyone at Ballad Health for the hard work they’ve put into getting this application submitted, and I look forward to helping them in any way I can. This designation is extremely important to the success and viability of the Lee County Community Hospital.”
To obtain the Critical Access Hospital designation, eligible hospitals must meet the following conditions:
- Have 25 or fewer acute care inpatient beds;
- Be more than a 35-mile drive from another hospital or be more than a 15-mile drive from another hospital in an area with mountain terrain or only secondary roads;
- Maintain an annual average length of stay of 96 hours or less for acute care patients; and
- Provide 24/7 emergency care services.
The state review of the application for the Critical Access Hospital designation is expected to take approximately 90 days.
Ballad Health’s journey to reopen Lee County Community Hospital started in January 2019, when its board of directors voted unanimously to start negotiating with the Lee County Hospital Authority to reopen the rural Southwest Virginia hospital, which had closed in 2013.
On Sept. 23, the Lee County Hospital Authority voted unanimously to approve the definitive agreement with Ballad Health.
In recent months, Ballad Health has worked in conjunction with a group of 20 local Lee County residents who serve on the Community Advisory Committee to complete a Community Health Needs Assessment to better understand what types of services were most needed in the area. That assessment was reviewed and approved by the Lee County Hospital Authority during its Sept. 17 meeting.
On Oct. 8, Ballad Health executives and members of the Lee County Hospital Authority cut the ribbon on a new Ballad Health Medical Associates Urgent Care Center, located adjacent to the hospital at 127 Healthcare Drive, Suite 3. The urgent care center will provide residents immediate access to care in the interim until the hospital opens.