The COVID-19 pandemic has filled many hospitals to the point where they cannot take any more patients sickened by the virus. An effect of this has been that other people who are sick or need important procedures have been turned away, at least temporarily. Even heart surgeries and cancer treatments have been delayed in some cases.
Rural hospitals, many of which have no endowment, small revenue and medical staffs far short of those currently needed, have simply begun to run out of money. Government financial lifelines cannot provide enough capital to save them. In some states, a number of rural hospitals already have collapsed. In others, the process is well underway.
A recent article in Poynter focused on the rural hospitals problem: “Why were 46% of rural hospitals in the red before the pandemic and why were 40% losing money last year? The answer is that there was an infusion of pandemic-era federal funds that expires soon, and the closures will begin anew.”
The recently released Rural Hospitals at Risk of Closing report from the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform has a list over 500 hospitals that are “at immediate risk of closure.” The two primary causes, the research shows, are “persistent financial losses” and “low or non-existent financial reserves.” The grim conclusion of the study is that “Almost every state has at least one rural hospital at immediate risk of closure, and in 21 states, 25% or more of the rural hospitals are at immediate risk.”
Among the other terrible conclusions is that many of these facilities are in places isolated from large population centers, which at least have other medical facilities.
In one state, 100% of rural hospitals are at risk. This is Connecticut, which has a relatively small number at three. States with much larger counts still have a major problem. Texas has the most rural hospitals at 146, with the number at risk at 55%.
This is the number of rural hospitals by state and the percentage of those at threat of closing:
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