BUCKHANNON - St. Joseph's Hospital of Buckhannon was awarded Critical Access Hospital (CAH) status on April 2 following a year-long application and preparation process leading up to a survey by the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification (OHFLAC) on behalf of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).
The conversion was a result of the hospital undergoing a lengthy application and preparation process which took more than a year of extensive work by a team of task forces within the hospital.
The Critical Access Hospital designation was initially established as a federal reimbursement program under the government's Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
The hospitals that meet the requirements are deemed as "critically important" to the people they service. One of the requirements is the distance from other hospitals; 15 miles by secondary roads and 35 miles by primary roads, or as in St. Joseph's Hospital's case, 15 miles in a mountainous terrain.
With Critical Access Status, hospitals receive a higher rate of reimbursement for Medicare patients receiving outpatient, inpatient, laboratory and therapy services.
Currently, there are 1330 CAHs nationwide and 19 in West Virginia, with St. Joseph's Hospital qualifying as its 20th CAH.
CAH status has been extremely successful in assisting rural hospitals to ensure their long-term substantiability in their communities. This designation will provide St. Joseph's Hospital increased reimbursement as well as benefit the hospital with additional funds for capital expenditures and
"While Critical Access Hospitals focus on providing primary and outpatient care, the hospital will continue to evaluate the community's need for services consistent with our Mission and focusing on our strategic initiatives," said Sue Johnson-Phillippe, president and CEO. "Our Emergency Department will maintain their Level IV Trauma Designation, a status that means that they have demonstrated an ability to provide advanced trauma life support (ATLS) prior to transfer of patients to a higher level trauma center. "
In addition, the conversion to a CAH has allowed St. Joseph's Hospital to open a new service for the community, St. Joseph's Skilled Nursing Facility. This facility brings a short-term rehabilitative and skilled nursing facility closer to home for patients in Upshur County and surrounding areas.
"For those patients that need further care following surgery, a serious illness or other chronic conditions, our Skilled Nursing Facility offers them therapy and nursing care here in Buckhannon," said Johnson-Phillippe. "This facility allows patients and their families to receive the care they need closer to home."
"The conversion to a Critical Access Hospital and the addition of the Skilled Nursing Facility is truly a great benefit to St. Joseph's and to the community. It enables us to continue providing the best in healthcare to our community," said Johnson-Phillippe.