PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A $227,000 federal grant will help 19 rural hospitals in South Dakota improve patient safety and access, reduce medication errors, reduce hospital readmissions and improve operations.

The Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program funding is being distributed through the South Dakota Department of Health.

State Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth says the funding helps rural hospitals make direct, positive impacts on patient care and health outcomes.

Rural South Dakota hospitals in South Dakota have received about $4.4 million in direct awards through the program over the past 13 years. To become eligible, facilities must be Medicare-certified as critical access hospitals, which receive a higher Medicare reimbursement rate and are eligible for federal funding for improvement projects.

There are currently 38 critical access hospitals in South Dakota.

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