By Dale Quinney
With 86 percent of Alabama’s rural hospitals having a net operating loss, new ideas and innovation in providing services must be developed. The Choctaw General Hospital, located in Butler in Choctaw County, has a program for providing health and health-related services to seniors with special needs that could be an example for possible statewide implementation.
This Senior Care program involves bringing seniors experiencing difficulties in adjusting to life without a spouse or other challenges to a special unit three mornings a week. They are given primary health care, an opportunity to socialize, a delicious and healthy lunch, counseling and other mental health care, social worker assistance and other services. Transportation is provided by a hospital van dedicated to this program.
Area churches help identify those who need help. The hospital hosts a Pastor Education Luncheon each year where area ministers and hospital officials share information on health care and the health needs of the community and individuals.
While this excellent and innovative program is not entirely the same as adult day care, it could serve as an example of services that could be provided through the expansion of adult day care in Alabama, especially as a reimbursable Medicaid service.
Alabama’s rural hospitals need to develop new streams of revenue to bolster their serious financial crisis. Alabama’s Medicaid program needs to find ways to cut costs. Can Alabama’s Medicaid program seek a federal waiver to offer reimbursement for adult day care service to those who do not need full-time residency in a nursing facility? This could possibly be a new revenue stream for rural hospitals and/or nursing facilities, especially those with large numbers of empty beds. It could offer savings to the Alabama Medicaid program since day care would cost less than full-time residency in nursing facilities. It could benefit seniors who want to remain at home as long as possible before being institutionalized. It could offer peace of mind to those wanting to keep Mom or Dad at home, but are not able because of work demands.
The people of Choctaw County, located in the Black Warrior Electric Membership Corporation service area, lost their hospital in 1993 and were forced to struggle without a hospital for 17 years until the Rush Health Systems of Meridian, Mississippi, invested approximately $20 million in building an excellent 25-bed critical access hospital on the site of an abandoned Vanity Fair sewing plant. Rush specializes in rural hospitals and clinics, owning or managing several other rural hospitals or clinics in Mississippi along with rural health clinics in Gilbertown and Livingston in Alabama. Rush has plans for expanding its role in the provision of rural health care in Alabama.
Dale Quinney is the founder of Operation Save Rural Alabama, www.osral.net, and a past director of the Alabama Rural Health Association