WATSEKA, Ill. (WCIA) — A Central Illinois hospital that has been facing challenges is now getting help.

Senator Dick Durbin was in Watseka on Tuesday to announce an important status change for Iroquois Memorial Hospital. It will now be considered a critical access hospital, which means it can now collect more money from Medicare.

That should help the rural hospital provide more services for people in the area. But Durbin said this hospital isn’t the only one struggling.

“They have difficulty attracting physicians, nurses, medical professionals and they’re hanging on by a shoestring,” Durbin said.

Durbin has been touring hospitals across the state while the Senate is on break. He said it’s tough for small town hospitals to compete in a world of rising medical costs. For hospital chairman Roger Dittrich, the new status will help IMH keep up.

“I was elated. We were hoping that we could get this critical access designation,” Dittrich said. “It means so much to our hospital and puts us on a level playing field with other people.”

He said the hospital used to be a one-stop shop for the area’s medical needs. IMH had a cardiology and urology department, as well as something many people in town seem to miss: a labor and delivery unit.

“That might even come back. We’d love to see that,” Dittrich said. “My kids and my grandkids were born here.”

Hospital CEO Mike Tilstra said the irony is that babies are still delivered at the hospital when people can’t make the long haul to a proper labor and delivery unit.

“It’s 70, maybe, miles between hospitals and the nearest Level I trauma center would be 50 miles from Iroquois Memorial.”

Durbin said that now, the hospital will be able to bring back the services it has lost over time. He said that as somebody from Central Illinois, he knows the importance of keeping these places viable.

“Unless you’re from downstate, you may not appreciate what it means to have a good hospital close at hand in an emergency in unforeseen circumstances,” Durbin said. “Driving 45 minutes to an hour could be a matter of life and death.”

This is all part of a larger push for Durbin to help rural healthcare systems. He’ll be in Springfield on Friday to talk about a new school for nurses. He said hiring nurses and doctors in these small-town hospitals is also a big challenge.