Greenwood Leflore Hospital is pictured here, in Greenwood, Miss., Tuesday, February 14, 2023. Credit: Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today

State money and a large line of credit has bought one of Mississippi’s most at-risk hospitals a little more time.

Until recently, Greenwood Leflore Hospital was at risk of closing within six months, according to interim CEO Gary Marchand. However, after a change in Mississippi Hospital Access Program (MHAP) payments and the passage of a statewide hospital grant program, the hospital is receiving millions in extra funds and millions in credit from its owners, allowing it to maintain operations into 2024.

In an email to staff on April 5, Marchand said that Greenwood Leflore has received $2,098,518 in MHAP payments and $722,713 in Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments this month. Additionally, the hospital is getting a little under $1 million from the state hospital grant program. 

Hospital owners have also agreed to support the hospital with $10 million in credit, which will allow it to operate for the rest of the year. 

Greenwood Leflore Hospital’s interim CEO Gary Marchand discusses the challenges facing the hospital at Greenwood Leflore Hospital in Greenwood, Miss., Tuesday, February 14, 2022. Credit: Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today

MHAP payments recoup the difference in reimbursements from insurers, while DSH payments recoup the money hospitals lose serving patients who cannot afford to pay for the care they receive. Legislators passed the grant program in late March, which doles out more than $104 million in total to be spread out among Mississippi’s struggling hospitals.

It’s an unexpected change of fortune for a hospital that seemed close to closing its doors for good in just a few months. 

During the pandemic, the hospital drained its cash reserves and lost much of its staff. In the past several years, Greenwood Leflore has shuttered several departments — including neurosurgery, urology and, most recently, labor and delivery — in an effort to cut costs to stay open.

Though about a third of Mississippi’s rural hospitals are at risk of closure, Greenwood Leflore’s situation seemed one of the most dire in the state, especially after the University of Mississippi Medical Center in November inexplicably backed out of talks to lease the hospital and save it from demise. 

“Our focus on short-term viability is bearing fruit,” Marchand said in a statement to Mississippi Today. “With changes in Medicaid supplemental payments, legislated emergency relief payments, and a tax-supported line of credit, Greenwood Leflore Hospital is now assured of serving our area residents into calendar year 2024. This will allow the hospital the necessary time to pursue a Critical Access Hospital designation with the Medicare program.”

Marchand’s long-term goal is getting Greenwood Leflore designated as a critical access hospital, which is reimbursed by Medicare at a rate of 101%, theoretically allowing a 1% profit. The designation can bring in more money, but to qualify, hospitals have to give up almost all of their beds and must be located 35 miles from the nearest hospital. Marchand is hoping from a waiver — South Sunflower County Hospital in Indianola is 28 miles away. 

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Devna Bose, a Neshoba County native, covers community health. She is a 2019 graduate of the University of Mississippi, where she studied print journalism and was a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Before joining Mississippi Today, Devna reported on education at Chalkbeat Newark and at the Post and Courier’s Education Lab, and on race and social justice at the Charlotte Observer. Her work has appeared in the Hechinger Report, the Star-Ledger and the Associated Press, and she has appeared on WNYC to discuss her reporting. Devna has been awarded for her coverage of K-12 education in the Carolinas.