St. Bernards Five Rivers designated as rural emergency hospital

From Region 8 News at Six
Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 5:36 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2023 at 7:07 PM CDT
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POCAHONTAS, Ark. (KAIT) - St. Bernards Healthcare announced one of its hospitals will be designated as a rural emergency hospital.

The health system said its Five Rivers Medical Center location in Pocahontas would be the first designated as a REH in the state.

Arkansas Act 59, or the Rural Emergency Hospital Act, took effect in early 2023.

The act makes it easier for hospitals that designate themselves as a REH to get reimbursed for the care they provide.

“Cost of care has certainly gone up, and reimbursement has gone up. It’s actually harder to get reimbursed for the care that we provide here at Five Rivers. We have noticed some financial difficulties,” St. Bernards Five Rivers Medical Center Administrator Randy Barymon said.

The hospital will have to follow new guidelines beginning Sept. 1.

Fiver Rivers must have no more than 50 beds, provide 24/7 emergency and observation care, and have an annual average of patient stays of 24 hours.

“Most people at this time seek care in larger facilities. I think a lot of rural facilities are seeing a trend down inpatient extended-stay care. This was really just natural progression for us. Only about 5% of our business is inpatient extended care,” Barymon said.

County resident John Plumley said he’s glad to see the hospital doing what’s necessary to keep its doors open in the future.

“I think it can only help the community. The more we can do to keep the hospital local, the better off we are. We need local access for the citizens,” Plumlee said.

As a paramedic, Plumlee explained the hospital has been an asset to those in the area.

“From my experience in working around Northeast Arkansas, this hospital does an excellent job of taking care of the citizens in emergency situations,” Plumlee added.

No employees will lose their jobs or have to relocate due to becoming an REH.

“We will not lose any employees during this transition. None of the staff will be terminated. None of the physicians will be terminated. That was very important to us,” Barymon explained.