Bill aimed at helping rural hospitals with state-funded pros advances in Tennessee Legislature

In this 2016 staff file photo, state Sen. Bo Watson listens to attendees during the Education Mini-Summit 2016 at the Volkswagen Conference Center in Chattanooga.

NASHVILLE - Struggling hospitals in rural parts of Tennessee could become eligible for state-supported business and technical expertise to maintain or reclaim their financial viability under a bill moving in the General Assembly.

The proposed Tennessee Rural Hospital Transformation Act of 2018, sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bo Watson, R-Hixson, easily cleared the Senate Health and General Welfare Committee last week and now heads to the Watson-headed panel.

"At the end of the day, rural hospitals have to make decisions for themselves, but this is to try to give them some access to [help] guide them with their decision-making and try to give them viability," Watson said.

Watson, a physical therapist and the director of Sports Medicine and Therapy Services at Parkridge Medical Center in Chattanooga, had discussed his idea earlier this year, saying rural hospitals often lack "economy of scale" because of the low number of patients.