Hospital Impact: How rural hospital closings weaken the nation’s health

From Fierce Healthcare:

The NCRHRP interviewed stakeholders about the impact hospital closures are having on their communities. According to an April 2015 brief (PDF) from NCRHRP, many rural residents are not receiving needed tests or care due to lack of transportation to get the services. Diagnostics tests and scans were the most commonly identified services that now required travel after the rural hospital closed.

Additional findings included:

  • Average travel distance to alternative locations was 25 miles from the closed hospital’s address. Some alternative locations were in neighboring states
  • Major and complex treatments like dialysis, cancer therapies and treatment for catastrophic injuries were also a concern
  • Overall, an increased distance to healthcare is perceived to be an issue for members of these communities

Less-obvious effects of hospital closings are the potentially devastating effects on the broader community when a hospital closes. Often, the local health facility is the largest employer. The National Center for Rural Health Works reported (PDF) the total economic impact of a typical Critical Access Hospital is 195 employees and $8.4 million in payroll. A study by the National Institutes of Health found that the closure of a rural hospital reduces per-capita income by an average of $703 and increases the local unemployment rate by 1.6 percent.

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