Weems Memorial Hospital is one of five hospitals across the country selected to receive a national technical assistance grant to help the hospital and county leaders identify areas for improvement, strategize potential solutions, and develop a specific action plan for sustainability.

The grant, made available through the Texas A&M University Center for Optimizing Rural Health (CORH) and funded by the federal government’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), will provide guidance and assistance in reaching the hospital’s goals, including on-site visits, active support for a 12-month period and availability for continued assistance as-needed.

The technical assistance will include a community forum - Q&A session on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the courthouse annex in Apalachicola.

The Jan. 21 forum will cover topics including the state of rural health, value of having a local critical access hospital, the role of the community in supporting a local hospital and a question-and-answer session.

"We expect this assistance will help enhance Weems' provision of high-quality, local care and assure that the people we serve have access as needed to the high-tech care of the 21st century," said David Walker, Weems interim CEO.

Led by Dr. Nancy Dickey, a former president of the American Medical Association with 40 years of experience in rural primary care, CORH is part of the Texas A&M Rural and Community Health Institute (ARCHI) and is generously supported by HRSA.

According to the Texas A & M center, changes in the healthcare delivery system have left smaller, more isolated hospitals in precarious situations as health care has become more dependent on technology and specialization in medicine.

However, they say, even as much care has moved to centralized centers, quality care is highly dependent upon local access to excellent primary care, timely transfer when a higher level of care is needed, and reliable communication across levels of care.

Weems was selected for the grant as part of the Texas center’s annual selection process to assist small, rural hospitals to identify and address issues that may be contributing to their future viability or financial vulnerability.