Bowdle Healthcare Center
In the case of Bowdle, the hospital would receive about 50 percent less revenue, said Sandy Schlechter, Bowdle Healthcare Center CEO.
"It would hurt really bad," she said.
Rural hospitals designated as critical access hospitals receive 101 percent of the cost of treating their Medicare patients versus the 70 percent reimbursement rate for patients at most hospitals. The reason for the higher rate is to ensure that the hospitals, which are more geographically isolated, have adequate funding to remain open.
The residents of Bowdle and the surrounding area rely on the hospital for emergency care, Schlechter said.
"The hospital in our community, or any small community, is a lifeline," she said. "The closest bigger hospital is Aberdeen. That is an hour drive. That is a long time in an emergency situation."
The economic impact of losing the 12-bed hospital would be enormous, according to Schlechter.
"Economically, it is probably even more devastating than the loss of health care," she said. "We were told by the county commissioners that the Bowdle Healthcare Center is the largest employer in Edmunds County. We have over 100 employees in the hospital, clinic and nursing home."
The loss of the hospital also would inhibit any future economic growth, she said.
Eureka Community Health Services Avera
Carmen Weber, interim administrator at Eureka Community Health Services Avera, said the loss of Medicare funding in Eureka would have a huge impact on the hospital.
"We have one of the highest elderly populations per capita in the nation," she said. "Most of our patients are Medicare patients. It is extremely important to have health care for them."
The Eureka hospital, with 35 employees, has six beds available and is connected to an 11-unit assisted living center.
Bill and Estella Merkel of Eureka said, the hospital is extremely important to them. Bill Merkel, 87, was hospitalized from Aug. 16-21 with a severe bladder infection.
At the time he was admitted, he was in extreme pain, could not pass his water and was feverish, Estella Merkel said.
"I am not sure he would have made it to Aberdeen," she said. "I am thankful that we had a doctor and hospital here that could help him immediately."
She said that having a hospital in town makes it easier for friends and family to visit.