Rural Hospital Closures Have Spillover Effects for Other Nearby Facilities, Researchers Warn
A growing number of rural hospitals across the United States are at risk of closing, creating a ripple effect of negative consequences for other hospitals in the area, researchers have warned.
The Growing Problem
In 2020, there have already been 15 rural hospital closures, with another 133 hospitals listed at high risk of closure. Many are due to financial pressures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as long-term struggles to maintain enough patients or staff.
While it may seem that a single hospital closure wouldn’t have too much of an effect on the surrounding community, researchers are warning that the ripple effects can be severe. These can include:
- Reduced quality of care – when patients must travel further for their care, it can lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment and also a decrease in care quality.
- Higher costs for other hospitals – when a hospital is forced to close, the remaining hospitals are often inundated with more patients and may have to increase their costs to cover the additional resources needed to care for the patients.
- Negative economic impacts – the loss of a hospital can have a substantial economic impact on a rural community, resulting in job losses and a decrease in businesses and services.
What Can Be Done
In order to prevent further hospital closures, researchers are calling for new policies and programs to help support rural hospitals. These can include:
- Financial assistance – providing financial incentives and relief to hospitals in order to help them remain open.
- Improved access – improving patient access to hospitals, either through transportation assistance or telehealth services.
- More staffing – providing incentives and assistance to medical professionals who are willing to work in rural areas, in order to ensure that hospitals are adequately staffed.
Rural hospital closures have a significant impact on the surrounding community and can have serious spillover effects for other nearby facilities. It is vital that new policies and programs are implemented to help support rural hospitals and prevent further closures.