20 Rural Hospitals Closed in 2020. 13 Were in the South.
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Of the 20 rural hospitals that closed in 2020, 13 were in the South, according to data from the Sheps Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which defines a closed hospital as one that no longer offers inpatient services. Tennessee was the Southern state most affected, losing four rural hospitals last year alone.
“One person mentioned that right now, the nearest hospital is 25 miles away. And the community is deflated and angry, because it feels like nobody cares if they die,” said Kinika Young, the senior director of health policy and advocacy at the Tennessee Justice Center, which last fall conducted a phone survey of rural communities that had lost or were at risk of losing a hospital.
The factors that lead rural hospitals to close are complex, and they can vary from community to community. Rural communities themselves are diverse in population, needs, and infrastructure. “There’s just all kinds of ways, from the demographics to the economics to the existing infrastructure to the geography, that will make needs differ,” said George Pink, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Health Policy and Management and a senior research fellow at the Sheps Center. Because of this, he said, there’s no silver bullet policy solution that will fix rural health care’s precarity problem. Instead, he said, it will take a combination of federal and state policy initiatives, and more research on what works and what doesn’t.
The South’s rural hospitals have long been among the most vulnerable to closure, in part because the region’s rural populations have particularly high rates of poverty and uninsurance. There are racial disparities, too: A 2015 Sheps Center report found that hospitals were more likely to close entirely, with no outpatient care provided, in markets with higher proportions of Black patients. Just five Southern states have expanded Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for people living in poverty, which many advocates believe is one of the most effective steps a state can take to avoid losing rural health access.
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March 22, 2021 at 6:20 PM #412303Cold Mountain TrailParticipant
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“The factors that lead rural hospitals to close are complex”
They all boil down to money. Some people’s desire to make more, by hook or by crook. If you look at each instance of closure, its pretty obvious.
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