At Rural Pennsylvania hospitals, a Tense Wait as Congress Weighs Funding Changes

"If we lose the hospital, we lose the town." - Bob Cozzi, mayor of South Renovo, Pennsylvania

Bucktail Medical Center, a critical access hospital (defined as a hospital funded at least 80% by Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements) in Renovo, Pennsylvania is the most isolated in the state; the next-nearest is in Lock Haven, a thirty-seven minute drive down the West Branch Susquehanna.

Bucktail pulled itself out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015, and is now effectively breaking even. However, Bucktail, along with its largely Republican, Trump supporting clients, faces a new threat; the Republican health care bill in Washington. If the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid prescribed in said bill pass, Bucktail stands to lose nearly a million dollars per year in revenue, sending it back into dire straits, and a large portion of its clientele will lose coverage.

When Renovo citizens were asked their opinions of Bucktail, praise for it was immense and widespread. There was one sentiment that many had in common; this hospital saves countless lives, and is the lifeblood of the Renovo community. Bob Cozzi, South Renovo's mayor, put it most bluntly; if they lose the hospital, they lose the town.

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, a critical access hospital in Wellsboro, Tioga County faces similar peril; the product of two mergers in two years, and bolstered by the biggest proportion of Medicaid expansion signups in the state, the hospital still can’t provide all the services that its elderly population needs. Bob Koehn, for instance, has to travel several hours to receive treatment for Type I diabetes, despite the fact that he lives less than five minutes away from a hospital. If the Medicaid/Medicare cuts go through, Soldiers and Sailors will have to lay off 24 of its staff, and will lose $800,000 per year.

Rooftops in South Renovo, Pennsylvania, as viewed from Pastor Rich Colvin and his wife Denise's porch.

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Bob Koehn, flanked by Charlie Beers (left) and Tioga County Commissioner Eric Coolidge, speaks to the Inquirer at The Native Bagel in Wellsboro. Koehn has Type I Diabetes, and travels to Corning, NY to receive his treatment. 

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Bruce Davis (second from left) speaks to the Inquirer at The Native Bagel in Wellsboro. He is flanked by Stan Dragovich on his left, and Ann and Angelo Serva on his right. Davis received health insurance and good care through the military for most of his life; upon moving to Wellsboro and assessing the coverage situation at Soldiers and Sailors hospital, he said the difference was like night and day.

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UPMC/Susquehanna Health Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.

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Flanked by Kristy Warren, Janie Hilfiger, CEO of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, speaks to the Inquirer. If the Senate health care bill passes as it stands, the hospital could lose hundreds of thounsands of dollars in funding through cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, triggering two dozen layoffs.

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One of the sixteen emergency room beds at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. While sixteen might not sound like much, it's a substantial upgrade from the nine they had prior to renovation.

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The emergency room scene at the Soldiers and Sailors. While quiet here, the ER gets tens of thousands of visitors a year.

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A vacant chapel at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital. Marriage ceremonies occasionally are performed in chapels throughout the hospital, in case of sick attendees.

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Susquehanna street in South Renovo, Pennsylvania.

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The main entrance to Bucktail Medical Center in South Renovo, Pennsylvania. Bucktail is the most isolated critical access hospital in the state; the nearest facility is in Lock Haven, a thirty-seven minute drive away. 

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Dr. Alan Edwards MD enters the emergency room to tend to patients at Bucktail Medical Center. Edwards works in both the ER as a doctor on call, as well as in acute care.

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One of the many nursing home bedrooms at Bucktail Medical Center. Bucktail is rather unique in its construction; there is little to no structural separation between the hospital and nursing home sections of the center.

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An old television, stocked with VHS tapes, sits in a chapel at Bucktail Medical Center.

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A nursing home patient sits and reads in the dining hall in the nursing home section of the Bucktail Medical Center. 

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Timothy Reeves, CEO of Bucktail Medical Center, works in his office. Reeves started working at Bucktail in 2014, helping bring the center out of bankruptcy; after having several-hundred thousand dollar shortfalls, the center very nearly breaks even.

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An empty exam room and hospital bed, saved for specialists of various types who visit Bucktail Medical Center from out of of town,. The room is partitioned, with a simple exam bed on one side (not pictured) and a full-fledged hospital bed on the other.

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A patient takes in the natural light in the nursing home rotunda at the Buckfield Medical Center. Every staff member knows every resident by name; many residents have lived in Clinton county for most if not all of their lives.

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Charlene Clary, 54, a stay at home mother voted for Trump in November, speaks to the Inquirer in her South Renovo home. Clary supported Trump in part because of his pledge to make sure everyone is insured. 

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Pine Street, South Renovo, Pennsylvania.

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Rich Colvin, pastor of Christian Community Church in South Renovo, Pennsylvania, speaks to the Inquirer on his back porch. The hospital, he said, was the most important part of this town. "Without it," he said, "there would be a lot more people passing."

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Bob Cozzi, Mayor of South Renovo, Pennsylvania, shows the view of the West Branch Susquehanna river from his Pine street home. Cozzi praised Bucktail Medical Center in his visit; at three separate occasions, his health was in crisis, and without Bucktail down the street, he would likely have died. 

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Pennsylvania Avenue, South Renovo, PA.

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