St. Anthony approved for Critical Access Hospital designation

After a year in the making, St. Anthony Regional Hospital is officially operating as a Critical Access Hospital.

posted on 5/6/2024 in Features

Critical Access HospitalAllen AndersonAllen Anderson, president and CEO of St. Anthony Regional Hospital, said the hospital has been operating as a Critical Access Hospital since Jan. 1.

The Critical Access Hospital program, designated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, aims to assist small, rural hospitals by helping them continue to keep essential services for their patients.

The path in becoming a Critical Access Hospital requires specific guidelines, such as having no more than 25 acute inpatient beds and the average duration of hospital stay being under 96 hours.

Since March 18, Anderson said, St. Anthony Regional Hospital began receiving payment as a Critical Access Hospital.

In November 2022, Anderson said, the administration became aware of the hospital’s eligibility to become a Critical Access Hospital.

Going through further education to understand the impact it would have on St. Anthony Regional Hospital, Anderson said, the board officially acted on moving into the application phase during February 2023.

In order to participate in the Medicare program, Anderson said, the hospital needed to meet the conditions of participation, which pushed them to update and add new policies.

Afterwards, state surveyors visited the hospital to ensure it was in compliance with meeting those conditions of participation.

Eric SalmonsonEric Salmonson, vice president and CFO of St. Anthony Regional Hospital, said this move is beneficial for the hospital as it’ll change the reimbursement methodology for Medicare.

Every year, Salmonson said, they fill out a Medicare cost report, which generally increases their reimbursements annually.

“It just allows us for a better trajectory as well,” Salmonson said.

As they analyzed the decision, Anderson said, the Critical Access Hospital designation helped set a path of financial sustainability and remain an independent health care provider for their communities.

“It was a significant change for us to be able to continue to operate as that independent, trusted provider,” Anderson said.

Throughout the process, Anderson said, patients asked if the designation would affect their services.

“Does this mean that we are not in a growth or have a growth mentality? That is false, we continue to want to grow in different service lines or enhance the current service lines that we have,” Anderson said.

Salmonson said he’s also heard concerns over the hospital downsizing, which he said is not happening. On the contrary, Anderson said being a Critical Access Hospital will help them grow.

In recent years, Anderson said, St. Anthony Regional Hospital has moved toward becoming an outpatient facility as opposed to an inpatient facility.

“It doesn’t mean that our inpatient census or inpatient activity is going away, it’s just putting more of an emphasis on the outpatient market,” Anderson said. “That is what our industry has become as a hospital.”

As a whole, Salmonson said, he enjoyed being involved in the process of helping the local hospital become a Critical Access Hospital.

“The process was pretty neat for me to see the collaboration, the teamwork that was involved to get us from start to finish and continues on to this day,” Salmonson said. “I think it really brought the organization together and got us working toward a common goal.”

Similarly, Anderson said, he feels this is a positive step forward for St. Anthony Regional Hospital.

“This is exciting for St. Anthony and will really give us the trajectory that we need to remain that trusted, independent health care provider that [patients have] known to have the confidence in throughout the years,” Anderson said.

Posted by Carroll Times Herald, Sara Stortz


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