St. Francis Health System Steps In To Save Rural Health System

Friday, October 7th 2016, 8:52 pm
By: Tess Maune

A Tulsa hospital is saving a rural hospital from shutting down.

Vinita residents said the hospital is vital to their community and many others. 

Craig General Hospital said St. Francis Health System out of Tulsa is buying the hospital in Vinita and all of it's affiliated clinics.

Craig General Hospital sits in the heart of Vinita.

"This hospital's been a lifesaver," said Vinita resident Kathy Edwards. 

But many other small towns including Welch, Bluejacket, Ketchum and Whiteoak also rely on the services it provides.

"There's a lot of communities that depend on this hospital," Edwards said. 

Edwards lives a stone's throw away from the area's only hospital, which her family has counted on many times.

"It's a lifeline because we just couldn't afford to lose the hospital because we'd either have to go to Miami or Pryor or Claremore and that's a long ways to go in an emergency," she said. 

Losing the hospital was a real possibility.

A board member said rural hospitals are losing money due to decreasing government reimbursements.

The trustee said rural hospitals have a disproportionally higher percentage of Medicare and Medicaid payments.

Any cuts to those programs hit facilities like Craig General Hospital hard.

"We've got to have our hospital," Edwards said. 

Luckily for Edwards and thousands of others, St. Francis is taking over. 

The chief operating officer said maintaining access to healthcare services is not only the best thing for the rural communities but also the right thing to do.

St. Francis's president said the partnership will offer Craig General a level of stability that would not be possible otherwise.

And for that, Edwards is grateful.

"This is a rural community and we need our hospital," Edwards said. 

There hasn't been a timeframe established when the purchase will be final or if patients will notice any changes.

The News On 6 reached out to both hospitals.

Craig General officials sent a news release, but wouldn't answer any other questions.