By Jeri Borst
“It is critical to assist hospitals that are working hard to provide care in rural Arkansas and to vulnerable populations. We believe the funds will help these hospitals weather the storm until conditions are back to near normal.” -Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston
If knowing is half the battle, Mena Regional Health System is positioning itself to win the war on COVID-19 by purchasing a machine that will yeild test results in minutes, rather than days.
“The PCR machine has a high accuracy and is the same machine they use at the state testing lab,” Jay Quebedeaux, MRHS CEO, said.
“It produces a result in 15 minutes. Currently our testing method requires a negative to be confirmed by the state, which takes two to three days,” he continued. “It has been a smooth process and we have no complaints, but this machine will expedite the results.”
The machine, which is expected to arrive in five weeks, was purchased with funds from a grant issued to 27 rural hospitals by the Arkansas Department of Commerce through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s (AEDC) Community Development Block Grant program.
Rural hospitals received grants in amounts ranging from $200,000 to $500,000. AEDC worked with the Arkansas Hospital Association and rural hospitals to identify immediate needs for assistance.
Quebedeaux said the $500,000 grant will be used for the machine ($80,000), PPE and the majority of grant funds will be used to cover operational losses.
Quebedeaux said though discussions of Baptist Health acquiring MRHS had occurred, the hospital board decided to maintain control over MRHS.
“We are in a good position but options are sometimes discussed for planning purposes,” he said. “You always want to look five years away from now, where will we be and where do we want to be.
“It really is a compliment to our hospital to have Baptist consider acquiring us.”
Quebedeaux said the hospital has not exceeded its ICU capacity for individuals being treated for COVID-19.
“We are fairing very well and are prepared for a surge in cases, should that happen,” he said.