Help for Ailing Community Hospitals
By David Domingue, FACHE
An operational action plan is needed for long-term stability.
Even before the pandemic, economic sustainability was a challenge for community and rural hospitals, given the operational and financial issues they faced daily. The pandemic’s impact has made it even tougher for many to remain fiscally sound. In this environment, community-based hospitals need to do something different, not just better, to attain long-term sustainability.
According to a January 2021 Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform report, more than 800 rural hospitals, or 40% of all rural hospitals in the U.S., are at risk of closure due to financial woes since the onset of the pandemic. The increased economic challenges came as a result of paying high prices to secure personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, along with lost revenue from canceled or postponed medical procedures. Those expenses were in addition to other hospital operational challenges that occurred prior to the pandemic and that still exist, such as stringent governmental regulations, lower reimbursement rates and a trend of declining populations in rural areas.