Three Arkansas hospitals, all affiliated with the St. Louis, Missouri-based Mercy system, recently received grants from the United States Department of Agriculture through its Distance Learning and Telemedicine program.
The grant was for $496,349 and will be spread across a total of nine hospitals in four states in the Mercy system.
The Arkansas hospitals are:
- Mercy Hospital Berryville in Carroll County
- Mercy Hospital Paris in Logan County
- Mercy Hospital Waldron in Scott County.
The other hospitals are:
- Mercy Hospital Columbus, Kansas
- Mercy Hospital Aurora, Missouri
- Mercy Hospital Cassville, Missouri
- Mercy St. Francis Mountain View, Missouri
- Mercy Hospital Healdton, Oklahoma
- Mercy Hospital Kingfisher, Oklahoma
The USDA funds will be used on a project that will provide video conferencing equipment that will be used for emergency care, stroke and neurology services.
Mercy’s portion of the grant was part of $42.5 million that was given out to hospital systems in 37 states and two U.S. territories to fund 133 different distance learning and telemedicine projects.
Mercy’s project will impact some 210,000 people living in the service areas of the nine hospitals.
“Distance learning and telemedicine make it easier for thousands of rural residents to take advantage of economic, health care and educational opportunities without having to travel long distances,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy in a press release. “USDA is committed to partnering with rural communities to help them improve their quality of life, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
The program’s hub will be at Mercy Virtual and based in St. Louis.
“This grant will allow us to install video equipment that will provide access to hundreds of Mercy medical specialists and even greater access to primary care,” said Mark Saxon, vice president of clinical operations for Mercy Virtual in a press release. “Almost half of the communities Mercy serves are in some of the most remote rural areas. These residents don’t have access to the level of care found in larger cities, and in some of these communities, they have no medical care.”
Indeed, Mercy has a total of seven hospitals in Arkansas with the largest communities served being Fort Smith and Rogers, the rest are mostly in the River Valley and serve towns like Ozark and Booneville.
“If you live in a small community and you have a stroke, you sometimes have to travel 50 to 100 miles one way to the nearest urban area to see physicians highly trained in stroke care,” said Dr. Gavin Helton, Mercy Virtual’s senior vice president of population health. “Specialized physicians live and practice in highly populated areas. Many rural communities don’t have the luxury or the resources to provide this level of care, but with the use of high-tech, powerful cameras providing live video, someone … can be virtually seen by a Mercy doctor hundreds of miles away.”
This is the fourth USDA grant for telemedicine projects that Mercy has received since 2011.
Mercy has more than 40 hospitals in its system and employs 45,000 in its four-state footprint of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
Two other Arkansas organizations received grants from the same USDA program.
The first was to the Carroll County Resource Council & Prevention and was for $62,176.
It will be used “to install interactive distance learning equipment in Eureka Springs.”
The other was to Conway Regional Medical Center for $67,375 and will be used “to deliver interactive telemedicine specialty care” in Dardanelle.
Mercy’s hospitals in Arkansas
Hospital Administrator: VonDa Moore
Director of Nursing: Kim Russell
President: Ryan Gehrig
Director of Nursing: Teresa Williams
Director of Nursing: Reta Cook
President and CEO: Eric Pianalto
Director of Nursing: Cassie Evans