N.C. Mayor reaches Capitol to fight for rural hospitals

Jul 29, 2014 | Hospital Finance Efficiency

In a previous post, this blog explored the story of Mayor Adam O'Neal of Belhaven, North Carolina, and his mission to walk 273 miles from his town to Washington, D.C., to bring attention to the plight of rural hospitals in his area. Vidant Pungo Hospital, the only care facility for his community within 80 miles, closed on July 1 due to insufficient health insurance collections.

The town of Belhaven is largely a working class community, with many residents relying on Medicaid coverage. Mayor O'Neal told the Charlotte Observer that the hospital would still be operating if  North Carolina has voted to expand Medicaid coverage.

O'Neal told the story of Portia Gibbs, a 48 year old resident of Hyde, N.C., who died as a Medevac helicopter was arriving to take her to a hospital, four days after the closure of Vidant Pungo. 

"Before, she would have been given nitroglycerin, put in the back of an ambulance and been to a hospital in about 25 minutes," Mayor O'Neal told the Observer. "In that hour that she lived, she would have received 35 minutes of emergency room care, and she very well could have survived."

The financial plight of rural hospitals is very real, and O'Neal's two-week trek served to bring national attention to the issue. On the steps of the Senate lawn, he told media that he plans to help draft legislation that would require the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary to sign off on all closures of rural critical-access hospitals, and require that critical-access hospitals give a minimum of a year's notice before closing their doors. 

If your care facility is currently experiencing difficulty with health insurance collections and is facing a cash flow problem that could compromise quality of care, the decision to outsource receivables management could provide some relief.