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On hand for the presentation of a $136,545 grant to Cumberland Medical Center were, from left, state Sen. Paul Bailey, state Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton, CMC Chief Administrative Officer David Bunch and Covenant Health CEO Jim VanderSteeg.

Cumberland Medical Center is among six of Covenant Health’s member hospitals selected as recipients of Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants, announced by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on May 19. The hospitals are part of a statewide distribution of $10 million to support smaller hospitals that are facing financial strain as a result of the ongoing response to COVID-19.

“We are grateful to Governor Lee and our elected state representatives for allocating these funds from the state’s COVID-19 response appropriation,” said Jim VanderSteeg, Covenant Health president and CEO. “The distribution of the grants is an affirmation of the important role that rural hospitals play in providing medical care for communities throughout Tennessee.

“With a statewide temporary closure of many hospital services during March and April, Covenant Health experienced reduced volumes and the accompanying financial challenges across our health system,” VanderSteeg noted. “The grant funds will be very helpful in supporting operations at our rural hospitals.”

Each Covenant Health hospital received a grant of $136,545, which will be used primarily for operational support of hospital services.

“Our rural hospitals and health care providers are facing many challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said state Sen. Paul Bailey.  “They have a tremendously important role to play in the health of our communities and I am very pleased these funds will aid them.  I also appreciate Governor Lee and our state officials for their role in awarding these funds.”

Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton said, “While many health facilities have taken additional steps to increase patient safety, COVID-19 has caused considerable revenue and resource strains on our health systems. These grants will offer much-needed relief to Cumberland Medical Center and other rural hospitals during these uncertain times. Thanks to the governor and the state for their support; I want our citizens to know our hospital is safe and ready to continue effectively serving them.”

“We also commend the tremendous job that our health care professionals are doing to serve the public during these unprecedented times,” added Bailey.  “They are a lifeline to many citizens and we appreciate their continued commitment to those in our communities.” 

“We are very pleased to be a recipient of this grant,” expressed David Bunch, CMC chief administrative officer. “Receiving the grant will be very helpful for our hospital, as we continue to be mindful of our current situation regarding COVID-19 and the importance of appropriate preparation. These grant dollars will be focused toward continuing preparedness needs related to COVID-19.” 

The COVID-19 response appropriation provided $10 million in Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants that are going to support hospitals facing financial strain due to effects of the virus.  The funds, which are capped at $500,000 per hospital, are distributed by the Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration. 

“Among Covenant Health’s nine acute care hospitals, three of them – Fort Sanders Regional, Parkwest and Methodist Medical Centers – are in Knoxville and Oak Ridge. The other six serve smaller communities in our surrounding region and were eligible to apply for the readiness grants,” explained Mike Belbeck, executive vice president of operations.

In addition to CMC, other Covenant Health hospitals receiving Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants include: 

Claiborne Medical Center, Tazewell

Fort Loudoun Medical Center, Lenoir City

LeConte Medical Center, Sevierville

Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, Morristown

Roane Medical Center, Harriman

“Our member hospitals, outpatient services and physician offices are essential to providing local access to healthcare and improving the quality of life throughout our region,” Belbeck said “As we reopen medical services, our patients can feel confident in seeking immediate emergency treatment and other medical services when care is needed. During this unprecedented time, Covenant Health remains committed to providing safe, excellent care for our patients and communities.” 

Spread across 29 hospitals in 28 counties, the grants help smaller hospitals bridge funding gaps created by reduced patient volumes while federal funds become available.