Many rural hospitals including some here in the Ohio Valley are fighting to keep their doors open.

That’s why 7News visited Harrison Community Hospital on Tuesday to explore what a rural hospital truly means to its community. Rural hospitals are the essential medical service for small communities.

Over the past seven years, nearly 100 have closed and studies show that those numbers are just the beginning. Once rural hospital close, it’s not just a loss of jobs. Harrison County resident Margaret Pickens said it’s a loss for the entire community, “I live way out in the country, so I’m looking at 40 miles either way I go. So it’s so important for me, as a parent of a child with disabilities, to have something close.”

Harrison Community Hospital is the perfect spot. Margaret said they never have to wait long when they arrive and everyone treats her daughter with respect. Of course, Margaret isn’t the only one who’s noticed. Harrison County resident Bill Ralston said he’s lived many places, but rural, Harrison Community Hospital is the one of the best, “The care that you get is exceptional. It’s personal, it’s face-to-face, and it’s really a great experience.” 

That’s what it’s all about. Rural hospitals are set apart because they focus on relationships with people, not just treating their symptoms, “We have the opportunity to take care of folks that we grew up with, that we know, and have taken care of us when we were younger, and that’s an honor. But not only that, we have such a great opportunity to impact the community and impact people on a personal level by continuing to enhance their care,” said Harrison Community Hospital’s Medical Director, Dr. Dan Jones.

Enhancing patient’s care takes money and the studies are right. It’s a challenge for rural hospitals to keep their doors open, “It requires a lot of innovative thinking and creative thinking, especially with the continued decrease in reimbursement from Medicare as well as Medicaid. Plus the continued increase of overhead. It’s a challenge,” said Dr. Jones. 

It’s a challenge hospital employees like Dr. Jones are willing to fight. It’s their goal to always provide essential access to healthcare for their rural community.

Officials also said since Wheeling Hospital acquired Harrison Community back in January, the hospital isn’t going anywhere and there are great things on the horizon for those in Harrison County.