Haywood County Hurdles to Healthcare - Rural Health Access Study

Haywood County, Tennessee
Faith Family Medical Clinic Ribbon Cutting

Haywood County, located along I-40, is home to the towns of Brownsville and Stanton. The county is crisscrossed by the Hatchie River Wildlife Refuge and one of the state’s premier Class I Scenic Rivers. In addition to this outdoor recreation treasure, Haywood County and city leaders have worked together to develop their tourism assets including the Birthplace of Tina Turner and the stories of other notable Delta Blues artists at the Delta Heritage Center. Brownsville has completed several phases of downtown revitalization this are paying off in the creation of new businesses.

Haywood County plays a significant role in West Tennessee’s agricultural and manufacturing economies. The county is Tennessee’s largest producer of cotton and is home to the Memphis Regional Megasite that is being developed to bring manufacturing investment and jobs to the county and West Tennessee region.  As all of these economic and community development investments were being made to position the community for new job creation and economic development opportunities, the potential loss of local emergency and inpatient care loomed for the community.  

In July of 2014, the county received the devastating news of plans to close the Haywood Park Community Hospital due to shifts in rural healthcare policies and practices that led to inadequate revenues for the facility. The closure of this 36-bed urgent care and outpatient care facility left Haywood County’s 18,000 residents with a daunting reality: an ambulance ride of an hour to Memphis or 35 minutes to Jackson for emergency medical treatment. City and county leaders took immediate action to create strategies to retain and expand all remaining healthcare and medical services available to residents in the county.

In 2016 as one of Tennessee’s distressed counties, Haywood County leaders participated in TNECD-sponsored Asset-Based Planning services that identified the provision of healthcare services in light of the hospital closure as a top priority. In 2017, Haywood County officials saw the opportunity to utilize a portion of the TNECD Asset Enhancement Grant (AEG) program to fund a county-wide feasibility study to ensure that adequate health care services were in place for current and future economic development opportunities. Leaders used the additional AEG funding for economic development marketing and a comprehensive wayfinding sign program for the county.

The community was awarded AEG funding to move forward with the comprehensive rural healthcare access study. The City of Brownsville contracted with the University of Tennessee’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment to conduct a community-based process to develop manageable goals for the community.

Healthcare Access Study

Plans for the Healthcare Access Study were developed to help the county’s leaders identify viable ways to meet current and future healthcare service demands. The study was jointly conducted by Haywood County, Brownsville and the Brownsville/Haywood County Chamber of Commerce who would also assume leadership in future funding and implementation actions.

The goal for the study was to develop a long-term healthcare plan for Haywood County to include planning for an ER facility and telemedicine locations, a study of needed physicians and how to recruit those, and considerations for how plans could be implemented and grants that were available for implementation. In 2017, a team of University of Tennessee and East Tennessee State University faculty and graduate students were selected to conduct the study. Researchers worked with community leaders to assess all available healthcare services within and near the county. Results from both a community-wide survey and focus groups provided insights into community concerns about health access, local issues to prioritize, and ideas for possible solutions. Recommendations were presented in short term (one year) mid-term (one to two years) and long term (three to five year) recommendations.

The Hurdles to Healthcare, Overcoming Health Access Barriers in Haywood County, Tennessee report included Hurdles, Feedback and Potential Solutions as follows:

Hurdle 1: Learning About Healthcare Resources

The Problem: Lack of Awareness of Existing Healthcare Resources

The Solution: An Enhanced 211 Call Center

Hurdle 2: Getting to Healthcare Resources

The Problem: Limited Transportation Options in Rural Communities

The Solution: MyRide West Tennessee

Hurdle 3: Access to Routine Care

The Problem: Lack of Healthcare Access for Significant Portions of County Residents

The Solution: Promote and Expand the Stanton Health Center

The Solution: Form Clinical Partnerships with Higher Education Institutions

Hurdle 4: Transportation to Emergency Care

The Problem: Distance to Emergency Care Creates Enhanced Risks for Haywood County Residents

The Solution: Call Screening and Resident Education

The Solution: Possible Consolidation of Emergency Services

Hurdle 5: Availability of Emergency Care

The Problem: No Emergency Facility in Haywood County

The Solution: Isolate Options Related to Former Hospital Site

The Solution: Create Regional, Rural Partnerships to Advocate for Long-term Solutions

Implementation Actions

The goals were achieved for the Health Access study. In May of 2018, county leaders received a final report and presentation from the research team. After the presentation, the city took the lead to form a Health Council Board to carry out the findings. Immediate implementation actions included the designation of a City Healthcare Coordinator to work with Brownsville/Haywood Chamber leaders to support the study and implementation. One of the first contributions of this position was the identification of two seminars to address telemedicine that were attended. Plans also included hiring a qualified healthcare services professional to consult on the county’s best path to bring telemedicine technology to the county as well as how to maximize the assets that the county had. Community leaders set this project on a 3-6 month timetable to begin implementation actions quickly.

The final Rural Health Access study was designed to assist county leaders in maximizing currently available services and resources and preparing applications for healthcare service improvement grants and other funding for new services. Study results also positioned leaders to work with TNECD and other economic development agencies to continue assessment and to obtain support for current healthcare providers, identify new services providers, and obtain funding to expand local services to support future population and economic growth.

Community Impact

Through the study process, Haywood County leaders were able to obtain information about resources that they were not aware of including transportation and access to preventive services. In keeping with the recommendations, leaders began to implement community education and service coordination actions to maximize local healthcare providers and to create new rural transportation services to take residents to nearby Jackson and Memphis facilities for services not available in the rural county. The community moved forward with a new health leadership group to further consider healthy alternatives and to better utilize the existing Stanton Health Center and other local providers. As a result of this effort, a new mid-town health center, the Faith Family Medical Center was opened in Brownsville in the fall 2018.

Economic development and elected officials have also begun dialogue with regional healthcare providers to establish telemedicine services and to explore the feasibility of establishing a new Ambulatory Care/Emergency Room facility in the county. Additional actions include the continuing study of preventive medicine strategies, rural transportation providers and telemedicine as alternatives to having a hospital in the community. The community continues to look for ways to tackle critical care and those will be addressed by the health council that was formed to implement the health study. Projected beneficiaries and outcomes to date include

Residents Served 18787
Units of Local Government Served 3
Health Care Organizations Engaged  4
New Health Care Services Provided (Faith Family Medical Center) 1

Project Funding

TNECD Asset Enhancement Grant  $20,000
City of Brownsville AEG Match and In-Kind Staffing (City Health Coordinator Salary for Health Study Support)  $1,300
Haywood County Health Department  $300
Brownsville/Haywood County Chamber of Commerce Staffing  (In-kind)
TOTAL HEALTH ACCESS STUDY FUNDING (Projections for state grant funding and local investments) $21,600

Project Leadership and Partners

Brownsville/Haywood County Chamber of Commerce – President and CEO – Project Contact
City of Brownsville
Haywood County
Town of Stanton
Haywood County Joint Economic and Community Development Board
Haywood County Health Department
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
University of Tennessee Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment
Tennessee Department of Health

For project information contact the Brownsville/Haywood County Chamber of Commerce.

TNECD Asset Enhancement Grant Program

The Asset-Based Planning program was developed through the Rural Task Force to assist distressed counties with strategic planning and development of short-term goals that would address the causes of distress: unemployment rate, per capita income, and poverty rate. TNECD and the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service worked with the communities to develop action-oriented goals based on the communities’ assets. Following that process, TNECD wanted to ensure that the communities had the resources to accomplish their goals and created the Asset Enhancement Grant provided through the Governor’s Rural Task Force and Tennessee Rural Economic Opportunity Acts of 2016 - 2018.

For more information visit TNECD Community and Rural Development.