Hospital enters management agreement to keep its doors open

Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 5:04 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2023 at 1:22 PM CDT
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SALEM, Ark. (KAIT) - A Northeast Arkansas hospital is now under new management.

A public meeting held Thursday night to discuss the Fulton County Hospital in Salem was “very productive,” according to County Judge Kenneth Crow.

He said the hospital administrators signed a management agreement Friday morning with Baxter Health of Mountain Home to take over the hospital.

The Salem hospital provides emergency medical services to the rural community.

It has faced closure multiple times in the past and has always survived.

“Our hospital has been in and out of financial distress. We’ve always had a lifeline to get out of it,” Fulton County Judge Kenneth Crow stated. “On occasion, we’ve had to have a line of credit from the bank to make payroll.”

Crow credited American Rescue Plan Funds under the discretion of Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders with the approved management agreement.

“The governor has made incentives for Baxter to partner with us and to provide the management resources and expertise to stabilize our hospital and grow the services for our citizens,” Crow said.

Fulton County has many rural areas within reach of the county hospital, but if it were to close, it would be a far drive for emergency services.

“If you’re in Salem, you’ll go 40 miles to Mountain Home, 40 miles to West Plains, 50 miles to Batesville, and the hospital is just two minutes up the road,” Crowe explained. “A good hospital is really important to the community.”

Dr. Chris Cochran, who serves on the hospital board, said the hospital is crucial to the area.

“You need to get to a place where you can be stabilized. Just the other day, a nursing home had a patient they were worried about. Their aorta had ruptured. They said, ‘Why do you want to send them to Fulton County,’ and I said, ‘Because wherever you send that patient, they’re going to be stabilized and sent to Little Rock or Springfield’ because that’s a big deal,” Cochran said.

Many in the community have voiced concerns that the hospital system could potentially shut down the county hospital, but Judge Crow explained that isn’t the case.

“The fact is Baxter is not going to close the hospital,” Crow said, adding that a more permanent solution between the hospitals would be discussed in February of 2024.