Rural Hospital Challenges

83 rural hospitals have shut down across the U.S. over the past eight years – three of those here in our state. That, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.

CNBC just ran a story titled, “Rural hospital shutdowns force communities to take care of their own.” The excerpt below speaks to the fallout when rural communities are forced to shutter a hospital.

The rates of rural hospital closures are the highest seen in the last few decades, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, a group which tracks rural hospital closures throughout the United States. There has been a total of 83 hospital closures from January 2010 to January 2018 in rural areas across the United States, the NC RHRP’s data showed.

Hospital closures often hit rural communities hard economically, Mark Holmes, director of the North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center, told CNBC. They also leave a void of emergency medical services, causing residents to travel sometimes 10 to 25 miles further to meet their critical health-care needs, he said.

When rural hospitals are forced to shut down, many nearby residents are left in hospital deserts….which is an area where the nearest hospital is more than 30 miles away. Arizona has lost three rural hospitals since 2010:

A recent study points out that some 30 million Americans don’t live within an hour of trauma care. And another recent CNN story found that 16% of the people living in the U.S. mainland are 30 miles or more away from the nearest hospital…..meaning they live in a hospital desert.

The problem has been exacerbated as rural hospitals struggle to stay open. Since 2010, 81 rural hospitals have closed in the United States, according to a rural health research program at the University of North Carolina. Another 673 rural hospitals are vulnerable to shutting down.

The interactive map below shows where rural hospitals have closed since January, 2010. Arizona is one of 26 states that have lost at least one hospital during that time.

MedAssist looked at four key areas as it tried to explain why it is so difficult for rural hospitals to stay financially solvent:

  • Technology
  • Socioeconomics
  • Staffing
  • Regulatory

Last December, Becker’s Hospital Review did a state-by-state breakdown of the 80 rural hospitals that have closed in the U.S. since 2010, including the three here in our state. How can we stem this tide and make sure Arizonans in rural communities do not lose their hospitals? Share your thoughts and any innovative ideas you may have that you believe could help. Generating meaningful conversations around the health issues making headlines is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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