Utah announces rural hospital assistance program

The federal Center for Optimizing Rural Health (CORH) is accepting applications for the Vulnerable Rural Hospital Assistance Program, which provides free technical support to rural hospitals through guidance, resources, and recommendations. The program aims to address economic challenges faced by hospitals. 

Applications for the program—which is in its 5th yearopened on June 1st and will remain open until July 31st.

 

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In a press release, the Utah Department of Health (DOH) Office of Primary Care & Rural Health was “excited” to announce the opening of the application period for the program. No Utah hospitals have received such support from CORH.

CORH works with up to 30 hospitals per year around the country to “assist hospitals and their communities to address economic challenges, understand community needs and resources, and find ways to ensure hospitals and communities can keep needed care locally,” according to their Year 5 application overview.

The program offers technical assistance from subject matter experts for struggling hospitals and does not include funding. The assistance is separated into 3 unique tiers. 

Tier 1 provides intensive on-site technical assistance for 5 selected hospitals in addition to follow-up discussions every 4-6 weeks. These hospitals also have access to monthly CORH webinars and courses on subjects like recruitment, marketing, board education, strategic planning, and more. 

Tier 2 provides virtual and facilitated mentoring through individual, off-site coaching sessions for 25 selected hospitals. These facilities also receive the same monthly webinars and courses as Tier 1-selected hospitals. 

Tier 3 provides access to the webinars and brief one-on-one calls with a CORH expert. These hospitals may apply for higher tier levels in subsequent years. 

Each chosen facility is assigned a CORH manager who becomes familiar with their specific situation and can provide unique advice. 

“This manager taps into the full expertise of their CORD colleagues and acts as a sounding board for hospital leadership,” DOH said in the press release.

Rural hospitals can go to the Health Resources & Services Administration website to check if they are eligible for this program. 

Utah’s rural hospitals have been staying afloat during the pandemic. According to a report from the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform, Utah has only 2 rural hospitals that are at risk of closing, and only one of those hospitals is at immediate risk of closing. These hospitals represent less than 10% of all rural hospitals in Utah.  

This number is much lower than neighboring states, with 9 rural hospitals at risk in Colorado, 5 in Arizona, and 6 in New Mexico, which all correspond to between 20-40% of rural hospitals in those states.