U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers this week congratulated the Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) system for being honored as the 2010 Outstanding Rural Health Organization by the National Rural Health Association (NRHA).
“It goes without saying that Appalachian Regional Healthcare is a bright star in my region,” Rogers said Tuesday. “I want to extend my sincerest congratulations to the Board of Trustees and fine staff of ARH for receiving such a prestigious honor and my many thanks for your unwavering efforts to provide quality health care to working families, children, and seniors. This is appropriate recognition for a job well done. While superbly meeting the medical needs of our communities, ARH has spearheaded local efforts to train a cadre of health care professionals to sustain quality, modern health care throughout Appalachia.”
ARH is a not-for-profit health system serving 350,000 residents across eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia. Operating nine hospitals, multi-specialty physician practices, home health agencies, HomeCare Stores and retail pharmacies, ARH is the largest provider of care and single largest employer in southeastern Kentucky. The ARH system employ 4,700 employees and has a network of more than 600 active and courtesy medical staff members representing various specialties.
Each year NRHA honors outstanding individuals and organizations in the field of rural health. The Outstanding Rural Health Organization award recognizes any group or entire organization that has improved access to health services and information for people in rural areas through innovative, comprehensive approaches. Factors considered for the award include outreach, preventive health and education, quality and efficiency of care, and strong community support and involvement.
As the 2010 Outstanding Rural Health Organization, ARH was honored on May 20 during the 33rd Annual Rural Health Conference in Savannah, Ga.
“We’re especially proud of this year’s winners,” said Alan Morgan, NRHA CEO. “They have each already made tremendous strides to advance rural health care, and we’re confident they will continue to help improve the lives of rural Americans.”
Since the first ARH hospital’s doors opened in 1955 as the United Mine Workers of America’s Miners Memorial Hospital Association, the not-for-profit ARH system has adapted and expanded its services to continue to fill the gap that existed in the region.
Part of the system’s uniqueness was that in addition to offering hospital services in these underserved areas, the system also continually developed and expanded other lines of service to accommodate the needs of the region. For example, professional schools such as nursing, physical therapy, laboratory technology, and X-ray technology were developed by ARH to further the available workforce for its healthcare facilities. During the early years of the system’s development, private physician groups partnered with the system to open clinics in many of its hospital communities. In 1968, the organization was a pioneer in the development of home health services when the system sent nurses into the remote areas of central Appalachia with fourwheel drive vehicles to provide clinical and social services.
All the while, the system endured a declining coal industry (which funded the benefits for many of its patients that were UMWA members), the possible closure/sell of some, if not all, of the facilities, and the eventual transfer of the UMWA-built hospitals to the new not-for-profit organization, Appalachian Regional Hospitals, Inc. (ARH).
ARH now serves more than 350,000 residents and employs approximately 4,700 people across eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia with hospitals, clinics, home health agencies, retail pharmacies and home durable medical equipment stores.
“What started out as a group of hospitals built to serve miners and their families has grown into a remarkable health system of 4,700 employees serving one the country’s most medically underserved areas,” Morgan said. “More than 50 years after its founding, Appalachian Regional Healthcare has overcome obstacles to continue its mission in the mountains off ering residents of eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia a local option for quality care.”
ARH President and CEO Jerry W. Haynes said the award is significant because it recognizes both the strides ARH has made in healthcare throughout the years and its efforts to continue to improve the quality of care and expansion of healthcare services available to all residents of Central Appalachia.
“The original founders of our health system believed that access to quality healthcare was a basic right for every individual. ARH still holds steadfast to that mission,” Haynes said. “From quality medical care for the entire family to state-of-the-art technology and advanced services such as openheart surgery and oncology care, the level of healthcare available in Central Appalachia is now at an all time high. It is an honor for our health system to be recognized on a national level for contributions that ensure residents have local access to these services.”