Raising funds to raise the bar at St. Luke’s

Published 12:34 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

COLUMBUS—According to a report from Chartis Center for Rural Health, one in four rural hospitals in North Carolina are at risk of closure. Our state has eighty rural counties, of which Polk is one; communities lose when rural hospitals close. Fortunately for Polk County, St. Luke’s Chartis ranking has steadily increased, and we are not on the list of hospitals at risk of closing. Not so long ago, we were in the bottom quartile nationally for rural hospitals, but today, we are in the top quartile of performance. 

In 2020, healthcare costs were one of the most significant expenditures in America, totaling an astounding $4.1 trillion and nearly 20% of our gross domestic product (GDP), equating to $12,530 per person annually. The acceleration of costs in all areas of healthcare has hastened our need to find alternative sources of funding for the hospital, including federal and state appropriations, grants and endowments, capital campaigns, and others.


$2.8 Million in Federal Appropriations


Many of you learned last month that, through the efforts of Congressman Chuck Edwards, St. Luke’s was awarded $2.8 million in designated appropriations, money restricted to a very specific purpose. While the appropriation represents a significant amount of money, it covers about sixty percent of the funds St. Luke’s needs to bring our 50-year-old facility utilities up to current building codes. The Hospital has budgeted the rest over the next several years.

Essential utility renovations are required to ensure that infrastructure components meet the current building code. St. Luke’s cannot receive building permits for major renovations without these upgrades.

“As we envision the Hospital five, ten, or twenty years from now, planning for building and capital funding is always at the forefront of our thinking,” said Alex Bell, CEO Interim at St. Luke’s. “We see the writing on the wall. We know the need for community funding expands annually, and those providing it must be more selective in awarding grants,” he continued.


County Distress Rankings


The State of North Carolina determines need through a county ranking system. The North Carolina Department of Commerce ranks our state’s 100 counties annually based on economic prosperity and assigns each a Tier designation. This designation is integrated into state programs to designed to ignite economic development in the less prosperous counties. The 40 most economically distressed counties are Tier 1 counties. The middle 40 counties are Tier 2; the top 20 are Tier 3 counties and the most financially advantaged.

Polk County is a Tier 2 county, increasingly bifurcated between wealthy and poor households. Because of the cumulative influx of newer wealthy residents, the county’s “financial need” is skewed, masking the actual community need. The unfortunate Tier rating is hitting close to home with St. Luke’s. The Foundation for St. Luke’s Hospital is finding it progressively more challenging to apply for grant opportunities. 

The economic factors in the healthcare industry have created an environment where only the largest institutions can survive.

Companies providing medical supplies and equipment do not price products according to the State’s Tier system. Critical access hospitals do not receive price breaks, and on our own, we do not have the buying power of large healthcare conglomerates.  To survive, St. Luke’s has relied on management agreements with larger healthcare institutions to benefit from their volume purchasing. 

St. Luke’s depends on revenues from the community to remain viable. Unlike many North Carolina critical access hospitals, St Luke’s is not subsidized and does not receive funds from a county. While we’ve been managed well over the last five years, we simply do not have the revenue stream to cover the cost of new medical equipment. Herein lies the need for community fundraising. We rely heavily on your generosity to fund capital investments. 

Without your support of our Foundation, St. Luke’s couldn’t provide the lifesaving services now offered through our new Revolution Elite CT Scanner, 3D mammography, and ECHO-Stress lab.


The Operating Rooms, the Next Piece of the Puzzle


St. Luke’s Hospital needs your help to equip our three operating rooms with essential equipment. The “Sustaining Surgical Excellence” campaign aims to raise $1 million to ensure our rural community can access timely and efficient lifesaving and life-improving surgeries. 

St. Luke’s Hospital is a vital healthcare hub for our rural community. We offer an array of surgical procedures, such as cardiology, general surgery, orthopedics, pain treatment, and urology. Our presence significantly reduces the need for residents to travel long distances for critical care. Your support in our ‘Sustaining Surgical Excellence’ campaign will help us continue to provide these essential services. 

Please consider a tax-exempt donation to our campaign to help us continue providing top-quality medical care to those in need. Your contributions will significantly impact our ability to serve our community. To learn more about our needs and how we plan to invest your donations, please visit FoundationSLH.org/OR.


Submitted by Dean Graves