Rural hospitals see challenges with hiring doctors

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 8:41 PM CDT
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A critical access hospital is one with fewer than 25 beds.

The CEO of Northwest Florida Community Hospital in Washington County said his hospital is one of them.

“They had to provide certain services and in return for some of those limitations you would basically get those limitations Medicare patients plus one percent,” said Michael Kozar, CEO of Northwest Florida Community Hospital

Kozar said one of their biggest challenges is recruiting doctors.

“The pool of physicians that are interested in rural areas really is much smaller when you take a look at the number of physicians coming out each year,” said Kozar.

He says only a small percentage of medical school graduates want to practice in rural towns and his hospital has to compete with other small-town hospitals across the country for those doctors.

“A lot of rural communities have resorted to, as we have here, we’ve resorted to using your advanced nurse practitioners or your physician assistants to supplement some of the gaps that we have in physicians,” said Kozar.

Washington County Administrator Jeff Massey said they work with the hospital to make sure it’s getting the support it needs from the county.

“A smaller hospital does present challenges, especially if you’re focusing on something like COVID-19. When COVID hit one of the things we were asked by the state was do you have an overflow plan B if the beds would get full?” said Massey.

But he adds what makes their situation unique is how tight-knit Washington county is.

“It’s key that we work together and we have a close-knit community,” said Massey.

Broadband internet access is one of the things that will help the hospital practice telemedicine.

“Our telehealth is going to be covered. And that was the weakness we had whenever we were exposed to COVID,” said Massey.

Reaching people on the outskirts of town...and beyond.

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