The Critical Access Hospital (CAH) program is a federal program to help rural communities keep their healthcare facilities. The program was established through legislation enacted as part of the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) of 1997 through the State Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program (Flex). The advantages of this program are to "offer adequate healthcare services that meet the needs of the community citizens such as radiology, laboratory services, outpatient rehab and surgery; and assist in ensuring financial viability of small rural hospitals through enhanced reimbursements."
The Critical Access Hospital program allows smaller rural hospitals to maintain quality access to primary and emergency healthcare services. Critical Access hospitals provide 24-hour emergency care services; but have no more than 25 inpatient beds and the length of patients' hospitals stays averages no more than 96 hours. If a patient needs more care, they may be transferred to another hospital. Virginia currently has seven (7) designated CAH facilities: