APPLETON CITY, Mo. -

Dorotha Swopes answers phones as a volunteer at Ellett Memorial Hospital one day a week.

"I think they probably saved my life," says Swopes.

One day she collapsed and the hospital took care of her until a chopper flew her to Kansas City.

"This little hospital saves a lot of lives by being able to air fly them out," says Swopes.

She says this little 12 bed hospital in Appleton City needs to stay open.

"In these little rural communities the majority of our citizens either qualify for medicare or medicaid," says Ray Magers, the CEO of Ellett Memorial.

Magers says right now, the hospital is safe.

"Except for declining utilization, the hospital is in pretty good shape financially," says Magers.

He says like a lot of other rural hospitals, Ellett Memorial is serving fewer and fewer patients.

"All hospitals are seeing declining inpatient utilization," says Magers.

Those declines have meant some hospitals in small towns like Osceola are shutting their doors.

So how do little towns like Appleton city with a population just over 1000
support their own hospitals?

One of the main reasons that some rural hospitals like Ellett Memorial can keep their doors open is the fact that they are 'Critical Access Hospital,' which means the government pays a larger portion of their operating costs.

There are about 8 of these critical access hospitals in rural areas around Southwest Missouri, but other non-critical access hospitals like Sac-Osage that get paid based on the services they bill medicare for, are having a harder time keeping their doors open.

But Magers says just because Ellett Memorial is a critical access hospital doesn't mean they're immune to closure.

"We're trying to figure out ways to counteract that decline either by offering new services or partnering with some other hospital," says Magers.

Swopes says Ellett Memorial needs to stay open because you never know when you might need it.

"I didn't need it until an emergency happened," says Swopes.