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To save rural hospitals, Georgia requires classes for CEOs

To save rural hospitals, Georgia requires classes for CEOs

ATLANTA Like many other rural hospitals across the country, Taylor Regional in the small town of Hawkinsville, Georgia, had gone through years of financial troubles.

When it approached retired Dr. Skip McDannald for help in 2015, he said he quickly spotted problems.

“They were not judicious in the way they were spending money nor were they knowledgeable about the things they were not collecting,” said McDannald, who had served as the CEO of another hospital system. “I don’t want to run down previous management, but the hospital was struggling.”

Alarmed by a rash of recent hospital closings, Georgia lawmakers are now requiring executives and board members at almost all the state’s rural hospitals to receive training on subjects like financial management and strategic planning to improve their decision making and avoid missteps that can precipitate their hospitals’ decline.

Healthcare experts say they are not aware of any other state that requires training exclusively for rural hospital officials.

“You need to understand how Medicare flows, Medicaid flows, why it’s important to have a good patient payer mix,” said state Rep. Terry England, an Auburn Republican, who co-sponsored the 2018 bill that mandated the training. “When they say, ‘Yes, I’ll serve on a hospital board,’ they need to understand what they’re getting into.”

Many rural hospitals in the U.S. are struggling to stay open amid changes in their patient populations and how healthcare is provided. Rural areas also tend to have higher rates of poverty and the uninsured.

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