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The Official Baldrige Blog

PBS Features Rebirth of Rural Hospital


They say there are just seven story plots that have ever been told: The Hero’s Quest, Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, Rebirth, Voyage and Return, Comedy, and Tragedy (Christopher Booker, The Seven Basic Plots).

And so when writing about Baldrige Award recipients, I often hear stories of overcoming resource issues or unfortunate circumstances or a difficult economy. I’d say that most of these recipients’ Baldrige journey stories would fall under the “Rags to Riches” motif, or maybe “The Hero’s Quest.”

PBS Newshour recently covered the story of one Baldrige Award recipient that I can only categorize as “Rebirth.” The article/segment “After Tragic Mistake, Rural Hospital Transforms into Model of Success” follows the journey of Baldrige Award recipient Hill Country Memorial, which several years ago had a “crucible moment.”

“Since 2010, more than 50 rural hospitals have closed across the country, and hundreds more are in fragile financial condition,” says PBS's Sarah Varney. “Rural populations have declined, and in many places, those that remain are largely elderly or uninsured. . . . Many rural hospitals have been unable to withstand the revenue losses. The hospital in Fredericksburg, a town of about 10,000 deep in the heart of Texas Hill Country, could easily have faced a similar fate.”

Hill Country Memorial has always been a truly community hospital. When it opened in 1971, 93 percent of the county’s households contributed money, but in the early 2000s, patient and workforce satisfaction was low, and the hospital was mostly in the red. Following the tragic death outlined in the segment, the hospital made some sweeping changes, including implementing the Baldrige Excellence Framework.

Jayne Pope, who became chief executive officer in 2013, attributes much of the hospital’s success to its continuous focus on improving patient care. “We know as a rural center, we can’t do everything,” Pope said in the article. “But what we do, we determine what those core competencies are, and invest in those skills so that our patients have the best of care.”

In 2015, Hill Country won the Baldrige Award and has been named one of the “Top 100 Hospitals” by Truven Health Analytics for the past four years. In addition, it was selected by Becker’s Hospital Review as one of its “Top 100 Great Community Hospitals.”

This story of the hospital certainly reads as Rebirth to me.

About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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