Avera Queen of Peace Earns Critical Access Hospital Designation

Mitchell’s Avera Queen of Peace Hospital has been granted a change of designation from a Prospective Payment System hospital to a Critical Access Hospital by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The change was requested so Avera Queen of Peace is better positioned to meet future challenges in the health care industry. Patients will not notice any changes to their care experience or the services provided. One major benefit of CAH status is cost-based reimbursement for Medicare services.

“I appreciate the great deal of work our team did to request this change, because it will better cover the costs for the care we provide,” said Doug Ekeren, Regional President and CEO of Avera Queen of Peace Hospital. “Approximately half of United States hospitals finished 2022 with a negative margin as growth in expenses outpaced revenue increases. In light of trends like that, we need to be creative and focus on our financial health so that Avera Queen of Peace can continue to serve Mitchell and the surrounding area. Being a CAH provides a better fiscal foundation upon which we can continue to build our services.”

The biggest change with the designation is that CAHs can have a maximum of 25 acute care inpatient beds. Due to health care industry shifts away from inpatient care into more outpatient care, the Avera Queen of Peace hospital census has only reached that number a handful of times in the past three years. In a public health emergency such as the one the United States is in now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services could allow Avera Queen of Peace to surpass the 25-bed limit, if needed.

“It is important to note that there have not been any services identified that we will need to discontinue because of our CAH status,” said Dr. Hilary Rockwell, who will become the Regional President and CEO of Avera Queen of Peace Hospital on July 1 as part of a previously announced leadership transition. “We will continue to explore ways that we can expand our offerings to the community, such as with our addition this spring of acute dialysis services that will enable patients who once needed to go to a different community for that care to receive it in Mitchell.”

Quality care will remain a focus with this designation, and that commitment was reflected in the fact that Avera Queen of Peace was recently recognized as a Top 20 hospital by the National Rural Health Association. The Top 20 hospitals each year are gleaned from the Top 100 Rural and Community Hospitals as determined by the Chartis Rural Hospital Performance INDEX.

“Avera Queen of Peace is one of only 17 hospitals in the nation to be recognized in the Top 100 list each year since it was started in 2016. Furthermore, we have been on the Top 20 list three times,” Ekeren said. “That is an exceptional track record of high-quality care, and this new CAH designation won’t have any impact on our commitment to that.”