ANSON, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – In the wake of closures for many rural Texas Hospitals, Anson General hospital has become the third in the state to take on a new federal designation as a Rural Emergency Hospital (REH). It’s an experimental federal program aimed at keeping rural healthcare available in one form or another.

Anson General CEO Ted Williams

Although the process requires a cut back in services available, it provides funding for these hospitals and ensures emergency operations and testing can still be performed. Anson General CEO, Ted Matthews told KTAB/KRBC he feels when faced with closing the doors, converting to an REH was the best possible option.

“You may not be able to stay as long in the hospital as you want to, but you still have access to your emergency room and your outpatient services,” Matthews explained.

Under the REH stipulations, patients will not be able to stay in the hospital for any longer than 24 hours. In that time, staff will see to immediate needs such as emergency operations, radiology testing, and any other observational care deemed necessary. If a patient needs to exceed local ability or the 24 hour maximum stay limit, they can be transferred to a larger healthcare facility.

Doan (Right) works with fellow Anson General Nurse

“We will still be able to provide excellent service in the emergency room, and the patients that qualify for observation care will get excellent care for those 24 hours that they’re here,” said Anson General Chief Nursing Officer, Anna Doan.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams said the hospital’s expenses began to far outweigh the money coming in. Through the REH program, the government will provide about $270,000 per month or $3 Million dollars a year as a ‘facility fee.’

When adjusted for the income lost in inpatient services, the hospital is able to break even and cover the range of services still provided, as according to Williams.

While the services available are scaling down, the hospital had to make staffing cuts to the tune of about 20%. Doan told KTAB/KRBC she is confident in their ability to provide quality care for the people of Jones County. She promised the hospital would continue to provide immediate healthcare services to their patients, rather than closing and offering no services at all.

“There’s a lot of services that can still be provided within the REH, and I feel like we’re gonna do the best job we can to provide those services,” Doan encouraged.

This new designation is designed to keep healthcare access available to rural Texas residents, and Williams said it is only part of the battle. The EMS ambulance service is still a question without an answer.

Emergency operating room at Anson General Hospital

With Jones County EMS services divided up into three sectors, Anson EMS funding is set to run out by May first. Williams explained that Anson General is in conversations with other county EMS services to hopefully provide a comprehensive countywide service if funds can be gathered.

“We’re getting together some of the entities in the area and we’re pooling our assets, our funding to see if we can come up with enough dollars to fund our EMS service for another year at least, in the short term. We need to look for a long term solution to this, and the long-term solution is running an EMS service on a county wide basis,” added Williams.

At least five other rural Texas hospitals have applied to the REH program since Anson general was accepted. It remains to be seen what kind of effect this will have on the long-term survival of the rural Texas hospital as an entity.