A safety net for our rural communities

June 30, 2016

Rural health care is a vital part of the American health care system. It is the backbone of rural communities, not just supporting health, but also providing these communities with jobs and economic stability.

In Washington, a rural hospital is the only resource for illness and accident care for 720,000 people. It is the closest place for those living in rural Washington to get care within the golden hour: the one hour (or less) following a serious injury during which it is most likely that prompt medical treatment will prevent death. Sometimes, due to remote living, road conditions or inclement weather, it can be hard to reach the hospital in time, which is what makes having these facilities so important.

As demonstrated by their quality and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHP) scores, rural facilities provide high-quality, expedient care in their emergency rooms and pride themselves at getting patients with serious injuries stabilized and transported to facilities that offer a higher level of care. They devote time to train for disasters and have proven very skillful at handling them, as was evident when they responded to the wild fires in Okanogan County and numerous other incidents throughout the state.

Both in-patient and outpatient care is provided to those fighting disease or illness in familiar surroundings, among the people patients know. Swing beds — beds that provide rehabilitation to those who have had strokes, joint replacements or other serious conditions — save an otherwise costly and often distant trip to a larger city. Patients heal faster and are happier when their families and friends are there to support them in the familiar setting of their hometown.

Although many rural hospitals struggle financially, they are committed to their communities and find ways to stay viable and relevant to them. As you travel through rural towns in Washington, you may see the Blue H on a street sign. The heart of Washington’s health care lies in these communities, and they are there and ready to help if you need them.


Carol Wagner,
Senior Vice President for Patient Safety


Contact Us

Washington State Hospital Association
999 Third Avenue
Suite 1400
Seattle, WA 98104

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206.281.7211 phone
206.283.6122 fax


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