Cash-strapped rural hospitals struggle to stay open, brace for coronavirus

4/9/2020 2:55:00 AM

Shortages in personal protective equipment, limited COVID-19 testing kits, these are just some of the difficulties for health-care facilities across the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rural hospitals represent more than half of all hospitals in the United States, providing essential access to inpatient, outpatient and emergency medical services in rural communities.What makes rural hospitals different than urban facilities is typically the number of beds,  services offered, and proximity within a community.

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On average, rural hospitals have 25 beds, which is less than one-third the beds compared to the urban average of 76 beds. In addition, some rural hospitals do not have intensive care units, and some are 35 miles away from the next nearest hospital. 

CORONAVIRUS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW"For rural communities, the population is older, sicker, has a greater percentage of chronic health care needs. I just described the population most at risk for COVID-19,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the NRHA.According to the NRHA, rural providers are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and their limited resources are being strained to the breaking point.

Blaine County, Idaho, has more than 300 positive COVID-19 patients but is only a small rural hospital with 25 beds for the community. Eagle County, Colo., has more than 300 positive cases, but its county hospital has only 56 beds.Making things worse is some rural hospitals can’t afford to keep their doors open.

CUOMO: ANTIBODY TEST COULD BE CRITICAL IN RETURN TO NORMALCYData from the NRHA revealed that 47 percent of the nation’s rural hospitals were operating at a loss prior to COVID-19.Rural hospitals are being forced to stop outpatient services and elective procedures to keep up with the possible demand from the coronavirus.

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