Financial Concerns Haunt US Rural Hospitals

The impact of financial issues and a shortage of nurses has become more evident in rural hospitals in states such as North Carolina and West Virginia.

UNC Chapel Hill said that the majority of 82 rural hospitals that closed since 2010 were in the southeastern states, including four in N.C. Money problems served as the primary reason behind these hospital closures.

Hospital cases

The four facilities that closed in N.C. comprised the Pungo District Hospital, Yadkin Valley Community, Blowing Rock, and the Franklin Medical Center. The latter hospital, however, will reopen in 2018 as part of a leasing deal, while the Blowing Rock facility reopened as a nursing home. The reopened Franklin Medical Center will operate a 24-hour emergency department.

George Pink, North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center deputy director, said that abandonment and conversion are the two types of hospital closures in the state. For converted facilities, third-party providers of hospital case management services such as Case Management Innovations may help in easing staffing concerns, as nurses are already scarce in several states.

Nursing care

The Charleston Area Medical Center in W.V. currently grapples with a $40 million deficit in 2017, aside from dealing with fewer nurses. The non-profit hospital decided to spend $12 million for travel nurses to solve the problem. The amount increased as much as twice compared to 2014, while the hospital did not even need travel nurses 10 years ago.

However, the shortage of nurses has obviously led hospitals to reconsider their recruitment options. Some have offered higher pay and signing bonuses, while others have given free housing and student loan assistance. This trend manifested in a higher spending for travel nurses that reached $4.8 billion, which was almost double the figure from 2014, according to Staffing Industry Analysts.

Government assistance will be necessary to help rural hospitals assistance in solving their financial woes, while employment packages for nurses should be more attractive to fill the current gap.