Wallowa Memorial Hospital has been ranked among the top 100 critical access hospitals of the 5,000 critical access hospitals in the U.S. according to the annual rankings of the Chartis Center for Rural Hospitals. The results of the survey were published in Modern Health Care, a weekly magazine that covers business news for the health care industry. St. Alphonsus Hospital in Baker City was the only other Oregon hospital to be recognized in the rankings. “It’s kind of nice to be reassured that Wallowa County is a good place to work, a good place to live,” said hospital CEO and Administrator Larry Davy.

The Wallowa Memorial Hospital has been ranked 6th in the nation as a critical access hospital for the past two years. In September, they’ll find out exactly where they are in the 2019 rankings.

A Critical Access hospital is a designation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program to ensure that people living in very rural areas are able to access hospital services. They must provide 24-hour emergency care services seven days a week, and meet specific on-site response timeframes for on-call staff.

According to the Chartis Center for Rural Hospitals, institutions in the top 100 critical access hospitals cultivate unique cultures that encourage excellent communication among employees and between physicians and patients, along with providing high-quality health care and safety at a lower cost. The Chartis Center notes that the top facilities had high-performing leaders who help assure excellence and efficiency throughout the organization.

But Davy has a different idea. “You can’t earn that award just through management or leadership. The quality of work comes from the employees, staff, and physicians that we have, and who are doing a phenomenal job. It’s a big family,” he said.

Communication among his staff is really important to Davy.

“We’ve worked really hard on making sure everybody in the group knows what’s going on. We really value the input and suggestions of employees. They have some of the best and most innovative ideas.”

How does Wallowa Memorial find the right people for its staff? “You find people who love what they do. And love their community. Its not just your medical or other skill set. Health care is hard. Unless you have a personal mission of service, it’s impossible to put up with,” Davy said.

With 125 full-time employees and a total of 185 overall, Wallowa Memorial Hospital is the largest single employer in Wallowa County. Davy considers Wallowa Memorial Hospital to be one of the county’s most important economic engines. Last year the hospital paid out $10,700,000 in wages, and $2,965,000 in benefits… money that is channeled back into the local economy. And, he says, because of its designation as a critical access hospital, a lot of that money comes from outside the community through Medicare, Medicaid, or other federal and state programs. “In total, the hospital contributed $26,604,825 to the local economy when you consider a sort of multiplier effect. The hospital purchases supplies locally whenever we can. Our employees purchase groceries, gasoline, and a lot of other things that provide jobs in the community, whether you are a grocery store clerk or a school-bus driver.” That adds up to support for 302 jobs overall, or about 7 percent of the labor force, according to a study published in ECONorthwest this year.

Looked at another way, the hospital is directly or indirectly responsible for four percent of the jobs here. That may seem puny, but all the hospitals in Multnomah county, including Portland, supply only three percent of jobs. The same statistic (three percent of total jobs is generated by hospitals) holds true in Marion County (Salem) as well.

“Our mission is to provide high quality health care for all,” Davy said. We’re doing our very best to meet that mission statement.”

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