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Weems gets $3 million in COVID-19 funds

Special to the Times
The Apalach Times

County officials learned Friday, May 8, that George E. Weems Memorial Hospital has received $3 million out of a $10 billion federal distribution fund for rural hospitals as part of a federal CARES Covid-19 Response allocation.

“COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere and will be a way of life for our communities,” said Weems Interim CEO David Walker. “This funding opportunity provides a much needed revenue boost to rural and critical access hospitals throughout the country.

“Like many other hospitals, especially small rural and critical access hospitals, Weems felt the pinch financially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

As a rural critical access hospital, Weems is included in the rural distribution which also includes rural acute care general hospitals, rural health clinics and community health centers located in rural areas.

Weems is among 200 rural providers in Florida who will share more than $1 billion allocated to Florida’s rural facilities, according to the US Health and Human Services announcement.

According to the federal formula, Weems will receive a minimum base payment plus a percent for annual expenses. The expense-based method accounts for operating cost and lost revenue incurred by rural hospitals for both inpatient and outpatient services. The base payment will account for rural hospitals with no reported Medicare claims by ensuring that clinical, non-hospital sites receive a minimum level of support no less than $100,000, with additional payments based on operating expenses. Rural acute care general hospitals and critical access hospitals will receive a minimum level of support of no less than $1 million with additional payment based on operating expenses.

For Weems, which operates the hospital, two rural health clinics and the ambulance services for the county, the amount of annual expenses total about $8.8 million per year.

“With the loss of revenue and increased expenses due to our COVID-19 response, this funding will aid our continuing efforts to prevent, prepare and respond to COVID-19,” according to Walker.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services announcement, rural hospitals, many of whom were operating on thin margins prior to COVID-19, have also been particularly devastated by this pandemic.

“As healthy patients delay care and cancel elective services, rural hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open,” read the announcement.