WCCHS Becomes a Critical Access Hospital

Wyoming County Community Health System (WCCHS) officially received Critical Access Hospital (CAH) status by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The change is effective May 16, 2024. According to David Kobis, Chief Executive Officer, “The conversion to Critical Access designation is projected to result in approximately three million dollars or more in revenue each year. Rural hospitals like WCCHS have faced financial and operating challenges for many years, and these challenges are expected to continue for the foreseeable future both in New York and across the country.” Kobis stated, “These are extraordinary and unprecedented times in healthcare. Rural hospitals need to pursue every advantage and opportunity possible to secure local access to health care and ensure financial sustainability today and for generations to come. We believe Critical Access Hospital status will help WCCHS stabilize our finances and provide a pathway to long term viability in Wyoming County.”

Critical Access designation is given to rural hospitals that meet certain geographic and operating criteria. Hospitals must apply for the designation, be surveyed by the New York State Department of Health or Joint Commission, and be approved by CMS. Once the designation is attained, hospitals then receive higher payments for Medicare and Medicaid patients, which comprise more than 60% of the patients at WCCHS.

The goal of the Critical Access program is to help keep rural hospitals on solid financial footing so that health care can remain local. Contrary to some misperceptions, converting to Critical Access does NOT mean closing programs or services. Rather, achieving this designation can help hospitals add and expand services in rural areas. “The CAH designation ensures the essential services provided by WCCHS will be maintained and promotes the Hospital’s financial sustainability and its viability moving forward,” stated Rebecca Ryan, Chairwoman, Wyoming County Board of Supervisors. “The hospital has been a foundation in Wyoming County for 113 years and with the CAH status, we are confident the hospital will remain so for many years to come.”