OUACHITA COUNTY, Ark. — No matter what your occupation is, where you live or where you work, the pandemic and inflation have impacted everyone— and that includes Arkansas hospitals.
Many of those hospitals have been facing potential closures, but the Medical Center in Ouachita County is no longer facing that issue because they will soon be receiving more than $6 million dollars to help get them back on their feet.
The medical center appeared before the council on Friday and submitted a request for funds from the American Recovery Protection Act funds.
After serving the community for 70 years, the center feared it might have to close its doors soon, but the council approved their request and they are no longer facing a closure.
“We were actually given a wonderful gift last Friday by the Arkansas Legislative Council,” said President and CEO of Ouachita County Medical Center, Peggy Abbott.
With the worry of their doors almost closing they were forced to make some difficult decisions.
“We made the heart-wrenching decision about three months ago to close a rural health clinic that with operated for 25 years, that was done in an effort to protect the hospital services that are here,” explained Abbott.
Bo Ryall, President, and CEO of the Arkansas Hospital Association said that those challenges have been seen across the state.
“Every hospital is in some type of financial condition because of what we've seen as far as expenses rising, and the inability of hospitals to pass along price increases to the consumer,” Ryall added.
If they had not received the $6 million dollars, Abbott said that the future of the medical center would've been uncertain.
“We would look at the numbers and think how we would continue surviving internally, “said Abbott.
Since the hospital found out they were going to receive the funds, Abbott added that they no longer have to worry.
“Three months of our payroll expenses and that includes contract labor, such as emergency room physicians, all the contract labor,” said Abbott. “So, it gives us a safety net.”
Other hospitals in the state have continued searching for their own safety net and will need to present their own cases to the Arkansas legislature.
In order to do so, they state that time will be the biggest concern.
“There is certainly a chance that not all the hospitals that currently need funds will be able to access these funds," added Ryall.
No matter how large or small a hospital is, Abbott explained that knows the importance of advocating for them.
"It should sound the alarm and stir the hearts and minds of those individuals who could help make a difference to keep healthcare here,” said Abbott.
Ryall commented that to his knowledge, there are no Arkansas hospitals that are in jeopardy of closing before they have had a chance to speak to the legislative council.
The public health committee will meet again on October 3.