River Hospital earns national recognition

River Hospital in Alexandria Bay. Photo courtesy of BCA Architects & Engineers/Revette Studio

ALEXANDRIA BAY — For the first time, River Hospital was recognized as a Top 100 Critical Access Hospital by The Chartis Center for Rural Health in April, and was the only New York hospital to be included.

Now, it has gone a step further and has been named to the top 20 Critical Access Hospitals in the United States.

River Hospital has been ranked in the 99th percentile among the more than 1,300 Critical Access Hospitals in the United States. Of the 18 Critical Access Hospitals in New York state, River Hospital is the only one on the list.

Emily E. Mastaler has been River Hospital’s president and chief executive officer since September 2019 and said the hospital is absolutely thrilled to hear the news about being in the top 20 Critical Access Hospitals in the nation.

“I think overall, what really is demonstrated in the hospital strength index is our capacity at River Hospital to demonstrate value to our patients,” Ms. Mastaler said. “It’s measuring equally the balance between exceptional and accessible health care with affordable health care, as compared to the organization’s financial sustainability.”

The 11th annual Chartis recognition program honors outstanding performance among the nation’s rural hospitals based on the results of the Hospital Strength Index. Based entirely on publicly available data, the index is the industry’s most comprehensive and objective assessment of rural hospital performance.

The top performers, excelling in managing risk, achieving higher quality, securing better outcomes, increasing patient satisfaction and operating at a lower cost than their peers are meant to serve as a benchmark for other rural facilities as they strive to achieve similar results and provide a blueprint for successfully navigating the uncertainty of the new health care.

“This hospital has been working towards realizing that kind of standard of care for a very long time, making sure that health care in our local community is sustainable,” Ms. Mastaler said. “I’m really proud of this hospital’s efforts over many years to achieve and strike the balance that the hospital strength index is looking at, and just really trying to keep it going so we stay available, accessible for patients and we make sure that they get the best possible care we can provide.”

Hospitals must meet the following conditions to obtain Critical Access Hospital designation: have 25 or fewer acute care inpatient beds; be located more than 35 miles from another hospital; maintain an annual average length of stay of 96 hours or less for acute care patients; and provide 24/7 emergency care services.

River Hospital was designated as a Critical Access Hospital in 2003. Licensed for 15 acute care and nine swing beds, River Hospital operates an active Emergency Department, in addition to offering Primary Family Health Care, Behavioral Health, Laboratory, Physical Therapy, Respiratory Therapy, Ambulatory Surgery and Radiology services.

“We know that small, rural hospitals and health care systems that are designed to meet the needs of their local communities are struggling financially,” Ms. Mastaler said. “But we also know that without rural health care, communities suffer. People need to be able to access the appropriate level of care at the right time, it’s really important for the health and wellness of our community. Although River Hospital is incredibly honored to receive this recognition, it also highlights the importance of making sure that health care remains close to home. Folks need to be able to get their needs met without barrier for themselves, for their families.”

River Hospital was ranked highest in care quality, patient perspective and financial categories at the 89th, 95th and 96th percentiles, respectively. The hospital’s average number of staff in 2019 was 220, and River Hospital saw 12,153 unique inpatient and outpatients that year.

The Hospital Strength Index has been aggregating publicly available CMS comprised data to assess the performance of rural and critical access hospitals for over a decade. The study reviews data across various indicators, including inpatient market share, outpatient market share, quality, outcomes, patient perspective, cost, charge and financial efficiency.

The Critical Access Hospital program is a federal program, designated by the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, designed to preserve access to critical and essential rural health care resources. The rankings were announced by the National Rural Health Association and an awards ceremony will be held during the association’s Critical Access Hospital Conference in September in Kansas City, Mo.

“This honor really just amplifies the importance of strengthening, investing, supporting and contributing to accessible rural health care for our people,” Ms. Mastaler said. “I think that really, it’s an opportunity to highlight the necessity of rural health care and we’re just so excited to be recognized in this way.”

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