How Did Rural Hospitals Expand, Even During a Pandemic?

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The challenges healthcare executives and administrators face are constantly changing. Host Kevin Stevenson talks with the heroes behind the heroes that are enabling hospitals, urgent care centers and telemedicine operators to spend their time tending to patients, while they handle the logistics.


Rural hospitals took a major hit during the pandemic, with many closing or on the verge of it. These organizations are a lifeline for the community, and some are persevering and thriving. Sharing her hospital’s story, Fairfield Memorial Hospital CEO Dr. Kathy Bunting joined I Don’t Care with Kevin Stevenson.

Dr. Bunting started by telling Stevenson about Fairfield. “We have a staff of around 300 with 90 credentialed physicians and providers. We have a strong team, and our employees are the heart of who we are.”

In January 2020, the hospital broke ground on a new $24 million expansion just months before the pandemic. The expansion, Dr. Bunting, explained, aligned with community needs. “We listened to what they felt was the most important, including orthopedic services, which will include a suite for operating and radiology.”

Dr. Bunting noted that the “silver lining of COVID” was their ability to adjust to new demands. “We were able to rearrange the design to add negative pressure rooms, more laundry services, and PPE storage.”

“We listened to what they felt was the most important, including orthopedic services, which will include a suite for operating and radiology.” – Dr. Kathy Bunting

The hospital’s response to the pandemic was one of a united front. The hospital didn’t eliminate any jobs. Instead, they cross-trained certain individuals to take over areas that needed more attention. One example was to use coders to help with housekeeping services.

Dr. Bunting put together a COVID team that organized mobile testing and managed the surge of hospitalizations they experienced in the fall. Now, they are one of nine hospitals in Illinois that has no restrictions on vaccine supply and have vaccinated thousands of Illinois residents.

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