ONLY ON KOLD: Hospital health - Tucson News Now

ONLY ON KOLD: Hospital health

Southeast Arizona Medical Center in Douglas continues to deal with the challenge of patients who can't pay for their care. Southeast Arizona Medical Center in Douglas continues to deal with the challenge of patients who can't pay for their care.
SAMC CEO Annie Benson said that about 18 employees, not doctors or nurses, were cut last year. SAMC CEO Annie Benson said that about 18 employees, not doctors or nurses, were cut last year.
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Too many patients who can't pay their bills have Arizona's small town hospitals facing a financial epidemic.

From no insurance to cutbacks in state-run health care, plenty of Arizona's 14 rural hospitals are feeling the pain, and all this could affect your wait at local hospitals.

Southeast Arizona Medical Center in Douglas continues to deal with the challenge of patients who can't pay for their care, nor have the insurance coverage to do so.  This is a problem that continues to burden rural Arizona hospitals.

A quick response and immediate care are necessary in Douglas just like anywhere else.

"We run a lot of medical calls," said Douglas Fire Department engineer and medical coordinator Rick Martinez.

Patients in those calls have to go somewhere.  In Douglas, that's usually Southeast Arizona Medical Center.

"We need that kind of care going to patients going to the hospital.  Otherwise, it's going to be a long distance we have to travel," Martinez said.

"There's a time-sensitive issue there for them to get the appropriate treatment," said SAMC CEO Annie Benson.

Benson said that about 18 employees, not doctors or nurses, were cut last year.  SAMC is in chapter eleven bankruptcy protection and has financial support from Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.  A big challenge is that about half of Douglas patients cannot pay or they use Medicaid through Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, also known as AHCCCS, and that pays only two thirds to three quarters of cost.

"It's difficult.  Part of why little rural hospitals are not surviving.  And one of those strategies is certainly to partner with bigger hospitals," Benson said.

"So if we can increase coverage and increase payment rates, I think that's going to be helpful," said Kevin Driesen, with the Center for Rural Health.

Driesen pointed out that cuts to AHCCCS hurt rural communities more.  The state has fourteen rural hospitals.  Driesen said that as many as six in recent years have been in the red.  Worst case is that losing these hospitals could mean long commutes for those patients to places like Sierra Vista and Tucson.

"For example during flu season.  January, February of the year.  I think you're more likely to feel the impact of people coming up and even more people using the emergency department, so, I think there would be an effect," Driesen said.

Either way, losing rural hospitals means more time and money transporting critical patients.  Some of them will need our tax money for the ride.

"It would also be a strain on our department, locally, economically, you're looking at more dollars meaning more overtime, more paramedics, EMT's transporting patients to a facility that's further away, Martinez said.

The Arizona legislature has yet to decide whether to expand Medicaid funding and accept that federal money. 

 Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

  • Local newsMore>>

  • Domestic violence group highlights important role of law enforcement

    Domestic violence group highlights important role of law enforcement

    Wednesday, October 18 2017 9:40 AM EDT2017-10-18 13:40:28 GMT

    Local law enforcement leaders and advocates for survivors of domestic abuse are gathering Wednesday morning to talk about the issue.  The event is part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Law enforcement plays an important role in domestic violence situations.  In 2016, the Pima County Sheriff's Department and the Tucson Police Department responded to more than 13,000 calls.  The CEO of Emerge!, an organization t...

    Local law enforcement leaders and advocates for survivors of domestic abuse are gathering Wednesday morning to talk about the issue. The event is part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Law enforcement plays an important role in domestic violence situations. In 2016, the

  • Computer problems with death certificate database holding up burials

    Computer problems with death certificate database holding up burials

    Wednesday, October 18 2017 1:07 AM EDT2017-10-18 05:07:56 GMT
    (Source: Tucson News Now)(Source: Tucson News Now)

    The problem is becoming increasingly troubling for some of the smaller funeral homes in Tucson that are running out of refrigeration space. Bring’s Funeral home is currently at capacity, and they worry this has the potential to become a public health crisis. 

    The problem is becoming increasingly troubling for some of the smaller funeral homes in Tucson that are running out of refrigeration space. Bring’s Funeral home is currently at capacity, and they worry this has the potential to become a public health crisis. 

  • Laundry room fire temporarily displaces family of four

    Laundry room fire temporarily displaces family of four

    Wednesday, October 18 2017 12:41 AM EDT2017-10-18 04:41:17 GMT
    Damage from laundry room fire. (Source: Tucson Fire Department)Damage from laundry room fire. (Source: Tucson Fire Department)

    Crews from the Tucson Fire Department responded to a 911 call about a house fire in the 8900 block of East Bears Path Road on the far east side.   

    Crews from the Tucson Fire Department responded to a 911 call about a house fire in the 8900 block of East Bears Path Road on the far east side.   

Powered by Frankly