McNairy County may be moving closer to a free-standing emergency room or micro-hospital.

Health care delivery is fast changing as patient's desire services that are easy and convenient. As a result, there is a rising trend in what is called a micro-hospital. Most have noted the rise of urgent care clinics and stand-alone emergency rooms and now there is an emerging trend to combine the two into a more diverse type of hospital called 'micro-hospitals'.

Leaders in the community and state are working in a combined effort to secure emergency services to our community. Last week County Mayor Larry Smith, along with State Representative Ron Gant and Jim Hobson, CEO Magnolia Regional Health Center, and other leaders met in Nashville to discuss options for hospital services in our community that would bear the greatest degree of sustainability, according to Hobson.

Hobson, who joined Magnolia last February stated, “My goal is to do something there. Over the next 90 days we will complete our due diligence to determine what models could work in McNairy County and what services can be offered dependent upon what model we chose.”

“One problem we've run into is the reimbursement rate for free-standing hospitals being close to have the rate of reimbursement for acute care hospitals,” said Smith. “We want something that is sustainable. Talks were on hold during the pandemic but are moving forward with Magnolia's new leadership.

Micro-hospitals are small-scale inpatient facilities with limited square footage offering a wide range of medical services in a small, neighborhood setting. Much like a free-standing emergency room, they operate 24/7 and commonly have between eight and 10 beds where patients can be observed or admitted for a short stay.

Such hospitals are springing up in states such as Texas, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada. With the coronavirus pandemic and since its early days, the American healthcare system has experienced constant change. This is changing how both patients and providers view the system.

Representative Gant and Speaker of the House, Camerson Sexton are working on a piece of legislation that would allow any county in Tennessee in which the hospital has closed to forego the CON application process. “As we look at the options county's have to offer emergency or hospital services, we have to go back to determine which application is sustainable over time. The last thing we want to do is to see a facility built in any county that is not financially sustainable,” said Gant.

If the legislation passes, this will create an easier path for Magnolia Regional Health to come into agreements with the Centers for Medicare and Medcaid (CMS), contracts with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna and other insurance carriers. “Right now reimbursement is about half what it needs to be so we are working with all leaders to explore options to see how to make this happen and whether a free-standing emergency room or a mini-hospital and what service ranges can be offered,” said Gant.

There is discussion of building a brand new structure on the site of the old hospital. “We are working hard to make this a reality. If this comes to fruition, there is one thing for sure. The people of McNairy County must use this as often as they can to assure long-term sustainability,” said Gant.

McNairy Regional Hospital, was sold to Methodist University Hospital, of Memphis in 1998 and was sold to Tennova Healthcare in 2002. The hospital was closed in May of 2016 citing a decline in patient census and sewage problems in the facility.

McNairy County was among 14 rural Tennessee hospitals that have closed in the past decade.

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