How rural America is grappling with hospital closures

Rural hospitals are closing at a quick pace, leaving communities at a loss after sometimes long-standing institutions shutter their doors. In Fort Scott, Kan., the closure of a 132-year-old hospital had to be reckoned with, and the closure brings up the question of if small towns need a traditional hospital at all, NPR reported. More than 100 rural hospitals have closed nationwide since 2019, according to recent data.

With better facilities in larger cities not too far away, not many patients actually utilize their local hospital in rural areas, according to NPR. For example, only nine patients stayed in Mercy Hospital Fort Scott per day on average from July 2017 to June 2018, though the hospital can occupy 40 beds. The numbers elsewhere are similar––45 Kansas hospitals have an average daily census of two patients.

However, for towns like Fort Scott, healthcare institutions can be the lifeblood of the local economy. For this reason, the Government Accountability Office is looking to complete a study later this year on the fallout from rural hospital closures, according to NPR.

The loss of rural hospitals marks an important turn in the American healthcare revolution, particularly as rural areas typically have higher rates of disease.

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