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The Health Care Financing Administration recently announced it is giving Gunnison Valley Hospital $49,629 under the Rural Health Care Transition Grants Program. A total of 10 hospitals in Utah are receiving a total of $330,087 in rural health-care grants.

A total of $12.7 million is being distributed to 297 small rural hospitals around the country. The money can be used to upgrade facilities, recruit and train professional staff and increase medical access in order to promote high-quality care for Medicare beneficiaries and others served by these hospitals, said Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala.Grants totaling $4.5 million are going to 110 hospitals as new grants this year. Another $8.2 million is for second- and third-year grants to 187 other hospitals. HCFA Administrator Bruce C. Vladeck notes that the program is now "in its eighth year of helping to strengthen the capacity of eligible rural hospitals to provide high-quality care to Medicare beneficiaries in small rural communities across the nation." The grants, up to $50,000 per year for up to three years, go to nonprofit, acute care facilities with fewer than 100 beds. More than $135 million has been distributed under the program over the past seven years.

The money can be used to plan and implement changes, programs or activities that help rural hospitals respond to changing needs in their communities.

For example, they might expand outpatient and emergency services, or convert inpatient facilities to meet other needs. Hospitals can also use the funds to train health care professionals, and to recruit physicians to their communities. "These grants have assisted rural hospitals in reaching important goals, including improved management and long term planning, and better patient transportation," says Shalala.

Applications for the grants came from rural hospitals in 43 states.