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The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement unveiled a website last week to help people track the financial health of Arkansas hospitals, a move that comes during a time of struggle for rural hospitals.
“We are concerned about the financial viability of several of our Arkansas rural hospitals,” said Dr. Joe Thompson, ACHI’s president and CEO.
The organization decided to gather financial and other hospital information and put it on a website as part of its mission to improve the health of Arkansans. Community leaders, citizens and legislators can use the data to monitor their local hospitals, Thompson said.
The website, ACHI.net/RuralHealth, will list financial information such as hospitals’ gross revenue, profit margin and the number of days of cash they have on hand. Details will include average daily patient counts, numbers of employees and whether hospitals have trauma centers. ACHI will monitor publicly available data and update the website.
Between 2012 and January 2020, 55 rural hospitals closed in Southern states, ACHI said. Few closures were in Arkansas, and Thompson credits Arkansas’ expansion of Medicaid in 2014 with keeping hospitals open.
Still, several rural hospitals could be at risk of closing because of narrow margins and changes in the health care system, he said. The changes include moving from an inpatient to an outpatient model. Rural hospitals also have a tough time recruiting medical professionals.
Making matters worse, people with commercial insurance have moved away from rural hospitals, leaving the hospitals with patients on Medicaid or Medicare, both of which pay at lower rates than private insurers.
Several of the rural hospitals “really need to think about whether they need to be doing as much inpatient care,” Thompson said. He also questioned whether the rural hospitals “should be more of an emergency room with a good transportation system and a daytime clinic.”
The financial information that will be going up on ACHI’s website, however, might be months old by the time viewers see it. That’s the result of a lag time between when hospitals report information to government sources and the time that the information becomes public.
“The data that is made publicly available is somewhat dated,” Thompson said. But it’s the most current information available, he said.
Several of the state’s rural hospitals could be at risk, Thompson said.
Last year, De Queen Medical Center closed. But in October, voters in Sevier County approved a 1% sales tax to maintain and pay for a new 12-bed hospital to replace the De Queen hospital. It is expected to cost $18 million.
On Dec. 31, Izard County Medical Center LLC and its parent company, Americore Holdings LLC of St. Louis, both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The hospital’s initial filing didn’t list exactly how much debt or assets it had. But its largest 20 unsecured creditors are owed a total of $3.4 million.
The creditors include Baxter Regional Medical Center, which is owed $1.1 million, and CPSI of Mobile, Alabama, a provider of electronic health record services which is also owed $1.1 million.
A more detailed filing is due by Feb. 4.
Americore Holdings CEO Grant White said in a bankruptcy filing that he founded the company in 2017 to focus on “saving and revitalizing rural communities through the acquisition and management of rural hospitals across the United States.”
He said Americore bought several “distressed hospitals,” and the purchase of ICMC in July 2017 “saved that financially troubled hospital from closure. But for Americore’s purchase of these hospitals they would have been closed years ago.”
ICMC leases the hospital from Calico Rock Med LLC, which alleged in a lawsuit that ICMC is in default of its lease. ICMC owes more than $300,000, White said. Calico wanted a receiver appointed, but the Jan. 2 hearing for the receiver appointment was placed on hold because of the bankruptcy filing.
White said ICMC has “significant other debts, but it also has significant accounts receivable.”
The attorney for Americore, James Irving of Louisville, Kentucky, didn’t return a call for comment. ICMC also didn’t return a call for comment.
ICMC said on its Facebook page on Jan. 2 that the hospital “would like to assure our Patients and Community that the quality Healthcare provided by this Hospital is continuing.
“At Izard County Medical Center it is business as usual,” the hospital said.