Archive for the ‘TORCH News’ Category

Register Now for the 2014 TORCH Annual Conference & Trade Show

Friday, February 14th, 2014

The  TORCH Annual Conference & Trade Show is known nationally as a  premier source of quality education and networking opportunities for  rural health care leaders and decision-makers. Our  theme for 2014 is ‘Taking Rural Healthcare in a New Direction.’  The evolving landscape of rural health care is becoming increasingly  difficult to navigate, requiring knowledge, data, vigilance and  collaboration. The TORCH  Annual Conference & Trade Show will explore many of these new  directions in order to help guide rural hospital executives, trustees  and other stakeholders toward financial and operational success. Register now by clicking here.

We’ve also opened registration for the 2014 TORCH Annual Conference Early Bird Golf Tournament, sponsored by CSS Health Technologies. The golf tournament will be held on Tuesday, April 8. Click here for more information and to register for the tournament.

TORCH Now Accepting Gordon Russell Award Nominations

Friday, February 14th, 2014

The Gordon Russell Award of Merit is given annually by the TORCH Board of Directors to recognize an outstanding rural hospital administrator.  You are now invited and encouraged to nominate a fellow rural hospital administrator who you believe should be recognized for their accomplishments, leadership, and demonstrated ability to sustain and/or elevate the need for and value of rural and community hospitals in Texas.  Please click here for the nomination form.

TORCH Honors Rural Texas Hospital Leaders with Awards

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

The Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals (TORCH) announced winners of their 8th Annual TORCH Leadership & Management Institute (TLMI) Awards. These awards were presented during a luncheon at the conference held on January 22-23 in Lakeway. The two awards presented include the Essence of Leadership Award and the Leadership Culture Award.

“There are great leaders across Texas that are growing their rural hospitals and ensuring that their care is top-notch for their communities and region,” said David Pearson, president and CEO of TORCH. “TORCH is proud to have this opportunity to recognize their accomplishments and put the spotlight on their dedication in paving the way for rural health.”

The 2014 TLMI Award winners are:

  • David Conejo, CEO of Red River Regional Hospital in Bonham, Texas, Essence of Leadership Award – This award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, service and contribution in healthcare, and who has made a significant impact in his or her organization and community. The award winner was nominated for his high level of initiative and dedication to the organization’s goals, visions and purpose. Under his leadership the hospital remains fiscally strong, and is in the process of securing an orthopedic surgeon, provides diabetes education to the public, provides inpatient and outpatient geriatric services, utilizes the latest technology including telemedicine and is working towards becoming one of the first critical access hospitals in the state to receive stroke certifications. 
  • Mitchell County Hospital District Physical Therapy Department in Colorado City, Texas, Leadership Culture Award – This award recognizes an accomplished team or organizational culture that has worked successfully together for the betterment of the organization, patients and the community they serve. The team is made up of three physical therapists: Jamie Alvarez, Marsha Drummond, and Cliff Shiller. The Mitchell County Hospital District Physical Therapy Department was nominated because of their positive energy, enthusiasm, and compassionate care without fail. Their vigor and love for their job and patients is contagious and manifests itself in the glowing reviews patients have bestowed upon them.

TLMI Moves to January

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
Ready for a New Date, New Program and New You? The 2014 TORCH Leadership Management Institute Annual Conference is scheduled for January 22-23. We’re moving it up earlier in the year to give more people the opportunity to attend. This year, it will be held at the Lakeway Resort & Spa. Click here for more information and to register now!

Save the Date…the TORCH 2014 Event Calendar is Out!

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Torch save the date

Download and print the calendar by clicking here.

HITCON Program Announced, Don’t Miss This Event!

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

TORCH and the TORCH Foundation will host the 9th Annual Rural Hospital Information Technology Conference & Exhibition (HITCON) on October 17-18, 2013, at the Embassy Suites Hotel Convention Center & Spa in Frisco.

Information technology is synonymous with change in the healthcare industry and is deeply integrated in every major aspect of the delivery of care. HITCON will cover many hot IT topics of interest to hospitals and providers including: key technology trends shaping the future of healthcare; security of health IT systems and patient data; demystifying health information exchange; and patient engagement-challenges and patient data. Download the full program by clicking here. Register for HITCON here.

We’re also seeking nominations for the 2013 HIT Awards. These awards will be presented during the HITCON Awards Luncheon on Thursday, October 17. Click here to apply or nominate a facility for the Rural Hospital IT Award of Excellence.Click here to apply or nominate a consortium or network for the Outstanding HIT Partnership Award. Click here to apply or nominate an individual for the Rural Health IT Leadership Award.

**Please note, the deadline to reserve your room at the conference rate is October 8. You can get the special TORCH rate ($129) by calling the hotel directly at 972-712-7200 or online. Reserve your room today!**

Please Complete the 2013 TORCH Salary and Benefit Survey!

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

It’s time for the 2013 TORCH Rural and Community Hospital Employee Salary Survey and the 2013 Rural and Community Hospital Administrator/CEO Salary Survey. Also, you’ll see we added a new survey for the 2013 TORCH Employee Benefits Report. Please take the time to fill out that section as well. We have decided not to gather the information on hospital wages and salaries electronically this year. The aggregation of the data electronically was too unwieldy and it wasn’t making the process any more efficient. Lastly (and added emphasis on this part), in order to make the data we provide back to you as meaningful as possible, we need to maximize the participation by all of our member hospitals this yearClick here to download the survey.

Your completion and return of these surveys by September 15, 2013 is significant to the success of the overall survey effort. Once the survey data is received from the participating hospitals, it will be analyzed and the results will be provided to each participant at no cost. It is planned once again that the results of both surveys will be made available on an overall basis for the State and that the employee (non-CEO) survey data will be reported on a regional basis as well.

Please note that the data to be provided is designed to be used as an informational guide in reviewing salary and wage levels at your hospital and should only be considered as one input into any compensation decision that is made. That said, your participation is needed and greatly appreciated!

Again, please scan and return your completed survey form by September 15,2013 to or you can mail a hard copy to the TORCH Office, Attn: 2013 Salary Survey. Please be aware, that once the tabulations of the data and analysis have commenced, following the due date, additional survey data cannot be used and the submitting institution will be considered a non-participant. So send your data in ASAP.


  • Use the job summaries to match your job titles to those in the survey and then enter the total FTEs, lowest and highest hourly rates paid for that title as defined in the survey. This job matching process is very important!
  • If you do not have a job that matches the job in the survey, then please skip the data entry for that job title.
  • If there are situations where certain job titles in the survey are merged into a single job at your facility determine the primary job title match and make notification of the other job titles involved on the survey form.

If you have any questions concerning these surveys or wish to discuss the process in any way, please feel free to call me or call Joe Rogers at Human Resources Healthcare Consultants, 254-778-9455. Both Joe and I are looking forward to record participation in this year’s TORCH Salary Surveys.

Feds Propose CAH Overhaul and Elimination of Necessary Providers

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Texas hospitals are gearing up for a fight! Critical Access Hospitals in Texas and across the country were taken aback late last week with the release of a report from the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommending an overhaul of the CAH program. Most damaging for Texas was a recommendation that all mileage separation waivers be eliminated through a CMS review of every CAH in the country. TORCH and the Texas State Office of Rural Health at the Texas Department of Agriculture are coordinating to determine which of Texas’ 80 CAHs could be in trouble with this plan. Many associated with the Texas CAH program over the years believe that from one-third to one-half of the Texas CAHs gained that designation with the Necessary Provider provisions and a mileage waiver. The plan floated out last week is especially discriminatory against Texas as the Lone Star State was penalized from the inception of the program by the 35 mile base separation rule. As many of Texas so called “square” counties are approximately 30 miles by 30 miles, many rural hospitals ended up being in a 25 to 35 mile range from each other. Without mileage waivers, they would have been barred from participation in the program.

While we await more detailed analysis, TORCH is acutely aware of the financial harm this proposal could do to our hospitals and the setback this would create for the rural health safety-net. TORCH hospitals should be assured that TORCH is already developing a plan to fight this and will be calling upon hospitals for their help. Be watching your email inboxes for Calls to Action.

The actual OIG report can be found here.

TORCH Participates in Meeting With Secretary Sebelius

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

TORCH President David Pearson (far right) listens in as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, discusses expanded coverage

The Secretary of Health and Human Services and former Kansas Governor, Kathleen Sebelius, visited with healthcare provider associations today here in Austin, including hospitals, physicians, pharmacists, health plans and other stakeholders. The visit was one of many that the Secretary is making around the state to build awareness and support for the coverage expansion that will be made available to qualified individuals and small businesses starting on October 1st. Texas, like other states that declined to participate in Medicaid expansion or the creation of a state-based exchange, will still become a part of the new national Health Insurance Marketplace. The Secretary said that there is a great deal of confusion in Texas regarding the actual status of the ACA, but that coverage expansion is indeed coming here too and that all our healthcare providers associations and advocacy groups can play a pivotal role in its success. TORCH was privileged to be a part of the conversation and plans to continue to promote expanded coverage and consumer engagement.

In a few short weeks, consumers will be able to choose from a variety of affordable health plans and various coverage options. The open enrollment period will last for six months and according to some initial estimates should lower premiums to individuals by at least 18% before any subsidies are even applied. Further reductions will be granted on a sliding scale depending upon the income of the individual seeking coverage. There are several outreach initiatives funded by HHS to help maximize total enrollment over the next six to eight months. Navigators, enrollment counselors and other outreach campaigns will be coming online very soon, as well as an increasing amount of marketing materials that are to be made available to healthcare providers and community health centers specifically. TORCH will be requesting that HHS also consider utilizing rural-specific federally-designated providers, such as rural health clinics and critical access hospitals as engagement partners in rural areas to ensure that the level of awareness is comparable to that in urban areas.

Sebelius briefly addressed the impact to individuals in states that have refrained from expanding Medicaid from 100% to 133% of FPL, which includes the State of Texas. She pointed out that the administration would be very happy to have Texas participate fully in the ACA and assured those present that door is not closed. While the 100% federal match is only available for the first three years, some states are still considering becoming involved at some point after the program officially begins. She noted that when states fail to expand Medicaid, the increased cost the federal government for covering an Medicaid-eligible individual through the exchange is around $6,000. She also reminded the group that the full scope of the ACA, including Medicaid expansion, is fully funded and contributes no additional cost to the federal budget. States that don’t participate just won’t realize the full benefit of the ACA and its ability to reduce the uninsured population, which in Texas amounts to nearly five million people.

In her closing comments, the Secretary invited all those present to use any tools and resources available to assist the administration in reaching the target market. Unlike the Medicare Part D enrollment initiative, HHS does not have ready access to a list of eligible individuals on which to act. They must rely much more on the providers and their associations to generate interest and maximize participation. TORCH will be passing on any and all marketing materials or resources to our members and encourage you to distribute the information to your patients and the wider community. The Secretary thanked THA for hosting the meeting and left to attend another forum being hosted by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and other civic and business leaders. For the latest information about the ACA, providers, consumers and small businesses can visit to find information on coverage expansion and how to prepare for open enrollment.

For more information, read the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services fact sheet, How the Health Care Law is Making a Difference for the People of Texas

AAS: Rural Health Care Problems Won’t Stay on the Farm

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Posted: 7:00 p.m. Saturday, July 27, 2013

By Editorial Board / Austin American Statesman

Texas moved to town in the mid-20th century, but Texans cling to the state’s image of itself on horseback. The state became officially urban in the 1950s, when the rush toward its cities that started during World War II finally tipped the population scales.

Even so, romantic visions of Texas rural life still flood the airwaves and our imaginations. Those romantic fantasies, however, mask some unpleasant realities about the availability of health care out yonder.

A life expectancy gap between the state’s urban and rural residents will continue to grow as health care gravitates toward where a majority of Texans live, even as the need for efficient, financially accessible health care grows in the rural areas where the population is older and poorer. In fact, that rural population — usually associated with Texas past — may well yield clues about how to deal with an aged Texas population of the future.

According to a recent comptroller’s report: “By 2040, the Texas state demographer projects that the share of the population aged 65 or older in Texas will nearly double, to 18.0 percent.”

The state’s changing demographics will challenge policymakers to make choices now and in the foreseeable future as fundamental as how big a life expectancy gap is acceptable or whether to devise ways to close it. Those choices will prove expensive.

As the American-Statesman’s Andra Lim reported last week, financial hardships forced 100 rural hospitals to close in the 1980s. Back then, life expectancies of rural and urban residents were virtually the same. Now, rural males in Texas live to an average age of 74.2 years; women to an average age of 79.2 years. Urban males live to an average age of 75.1 and women to 79.8 years.

Old notions about clean air and clean living out in the country collide head on with the reality of a rural population that is older, poorer and less likely to have health insurance. Those who depend on Medicaid assistance take a direct hit when Medicaid payments — a favorite political target — can’t keep pace with increased health care costs. Not expanding Medicaid coverage effectively cuts it.

“Any further reductions in Medicaid payments will strain rural providers. A certain repercussion is decreased rural services or (fewer) providers accepting Medicaid leaving many rural Texans without health care access,” warned the Texas Rural Health Organization in 2012.

“If access to care declines, and access to emergency care declines, that could contribute to shorter life expectancies in rural areas,” Don McBeath, director of government relations at the Texas Organization for Rural & Community Hospitals, told Lim.

That decline in access to health care is compounded by the realities of rural life that challenge cherished myths about it. The National Rural Health Association — which has scheduled an October conference in Austin — reports that rural residents suffer from hypertension on a higher per capita basis than their urban counterparts. Rural residents are more likely to die following heart attacks than urban dwellers. Oh, and that notion that the slower pace of country living is safer? National Rural Health also had this: “Although only one-third of all motor vehicle accidents occur in rural areas, two-thirds of the deaths attributed to these accidents occur on rural roads.”

So much for the simple life.

Texas legislators have taken steps to increase the number of physicians in rural areas that appear to be working. The Legislature approved increased funding for a program that helps doctors repay student loans in exchange for at least four years practice in areas where physicians are in short supply. Legislators appropriated $33.8 million for 2014-15. The program made $5.7 million available in the 2012-13 budget — an amount that quickly evaporated. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board had been unable to accept new applications since 2011.

Legislators also authorized nurse practitioners more latitude and authority in providing health care.

But, the Legislature — following Gov. Rick Perry’s lead — refused to expand Medicaid assistance to low income people, which will aggravate problems in obtaining health care, especially in rural areas.

There is also the ongoing dilemma posed by nursing home care, regulation and availability. Nursing home owners have been pleading for years for increased reimbursements. This year, they got some relief, but a funding gap persists. “Of the more than $350 million in biennial (general revenue) we were seeking to ensure Texas seniors’ nursing home care is funded at the level actually deemed necessary by state health officials, the Legislature ultimately approved nearly $100 million — a needed step forward as we work to continue narrowing this funding gap,” said Tim Graves, President of the Texas Health Care Association, the nursing home lobby.

The quality and availability of rural health care deserves increasing focus because some of those rural problems will become urban ones — and sooner than we think.