Southern Inyo Hospital
Critical Access Hospital Case Study 2007

Is the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) Program and small rural hospitals’ conversion to Critical Access Hospital (CAH) status improving the quality of care and the performance of small rural hospitals, enhancing local emergency medical services, and fostering network development? A case study highlighting Southern Inyo Hospital, Lone Pine, California, was conducted as part of California’s Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) Program and its program evaluation activities to examine and report on these questions.

Lone Pine, California and the Surrounding Area Demographics

Lone Pine is located in the Alabama Hills of east-central California about 230 miles south of Carson City, Nevada, and 210 miles north of Los Angeles, California, along highway 395. It is situated in a valley at the eastern base of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States and 76 miles west of Death Valley, the lowest elevation in North America. Lone Pine is located in Inyo County which is designated as a “frontier” county by the US Census Bureau, as the county averages 2 persons per square mile. Inyo County has an area of 10,140 square miles that consists of desert, mountain, lake, stream, and valley terrain where 92 percent of the land is federally owned. There were 17,980 people in Inyo County in 2006, just slightly more than in 2000 (17,945).

In 2000, the population of Lone Pine was 1,655; this is a 9 percent decrease in population when compared to 1990 (1,818). 2 History & Climate Traditionally a ranching community, Lone Pine is now part of a four-season, outdoor, recreation area that o ers trout fishing, alpine climbing, spring back-country skiing, hang gliding, horse packing, hiking, and mountain biking. Temperatures, like the area’s geography, can be extreme in the area, where the average summer high temperatures surpass 90 degrees during the day and fall to 60 degrees at night while those in the winter average just above 50 degrees during the day and 20 degrees at night. Tourism is the largest industry in the area, and the largest employers are the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, US Department of Agriculture, Inyo County, and Crystal Geyser.