HASKELL, Texas (KRBC)-Haskell Memorial Hospital is looking to serve as a medical hub for the rural communities that lie between Wichita Falls and Abilene.
With a new CEO, a newly renovated building, a new walk-in clinic and updated emergency room, the hospital is one of the few medical centers left that northern Big Country residents can travel to for services.
Mary Belle Olson is the marketing director of the hospital. She is also patient; she was born in the same room where she now works.
“I believe it was the labor and delivery room, so I was born here at the hospital, and so that’s where I started,” said Olson.
Knowing the needs of community, she said having health care services close to home relieves the burden of travel to larger medical centers.
“It just makes it that much easier for people to get access to care,” said Olson. “It means they don’t have to plan an entire day for a doctor’s appointment. They can come here, get the appointment they need, get the services that they need and go about their day.”
That kind of accessibility is what the new CEO of Haskell Memorial Hospital, Chris Strickland, is striving for.
“I want to create an environment to where patients are comfortable, and they come in here, and they feel like they’re at home so-to-speak,” said Olson.
Many critical access hospitals struggle with recruitment of health care providers, according to Strickland.
“A lot of the doctors go to the larger systems, because they can get paid more,” said Strickland.
But the stem of this struggle, along with other issues is quite plain.
“You see health care move towards the larger cities and towards these large systems that can get good insurance,” Strickland said.
Hospitals like Haskell Memorial rely heavily on insurance reimbursements to stay afloat.
“We can’t traditionally get really good contracts since we don’t have a huge population, and we only have maybe one facility and one clinic,” said Strickland.
This leads to inability to compete with larger hospitals for physicians and in turn, leads to the closure of rural hospitals.
“Insurances are choking these hospitals–the critical access hospitals, the rural hospitals,” Strickland said.