Baker County hospital fighting for federal relief funds

Ed Fraser Memorial CEO says hospital left for being too close to Jacksonville

In March and April, the hospital was forced to shutdown everything except for its emergency room and nursing home.

MACCLENNY, Fla. – Like most hospitals, Ed Fraser Memorial in Macclenny took an economic hit from the shutdown on elective procedures and people staying away during the first months of the coronavirus. Then it took another hit when it left out rural hospital funding from the CARES Act because of its proximity to Jacksonville hospitals.

On Thursday, a congressman toured the hospital and offered hope that some federal relief might still come.

In March and April, the hospital shut down everything except for its emergency room and long-term care. Business dropped 60%, according to Ed Fraser’s CEO Edward Anderson. The hospital is now running at about 75% of its normal operations.

“Rural hospitals are the backbone of healthcare for so much of the landmass of so much of the United States. It’s local people caring for local people. It’s critical that they’re able to get as much care as close to home as possible,” Anderson said.

This financial crisis hit rural hospitals across the country but many received about $1 million in relief funds from a $100 billion fund -- part of the federal CARES Act.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation, Baker County is considered a rural county because there are less than 100 people per square mile. Yet the hospital lost out on the federal funding because it’s about 30 miles away from Jacksonville’s St. Vincent’s Riverside Hospital.

It’s not a hit on the hospital, but on the county. Ed Fraser is the third-largest employer in Baker County and a much-needed resource to one of the counties with the lowest income average in the state.

Anderson says while no employees were furloughed or laid off in recent months, there were pay cuts that impacted people.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson toured the hospital and talked with medial officials about how to get them the needed funding.

“We want them to be able to survive. To be able to treat more people and have resources that every other hospital has,” Lawson said.

Lawson said he wants to amend the $3 billion stimulus package that’s before the U.S. Senate right now to include funds for Ed Fraser and other hospitals in similar situations.

“I think that’s something we need to tweak and correct because this is a great facility and it’s serving a great facility here,” Lawson said.

About the Authors:

While growing up in Jacksonville, Kristen dreaming of being a reporter at Channel 4. For the last several years, that's been my reality.

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.