How Are You Gonna Pay For That? Crisis Leaves Rural Health Care Unprepared For COVID Outbreak | Talking Points Memo
Since 2010, 126 rural hospitals have closed. And according to statistics from the Chartis Center for Rural Health, 47 percent of rural hospitals in the U.S. were in the red in 2019.
Coronavirus presents a unique risk to an already fragile rural health-care system: in severe cases, the illness requires intensive, long-term care that takes up beds and staff, while the level of contagion could quickly overwhelm the capacity of smaller, rural providers.
“A situation like that would really tax our resources,” Frank Tenorio, an assistant administrator and infection prevention officer of the 10-bed Guadalupe County Hospital in eastern New Mexico, told TPM.
Absent aid from the federal government, experts told TPM, the outbreak could strain many rural hospitals that are already financially on the brink.
“If the pandemic becomes as serious as some believe, and hits rural areas in particular, it could exacerbate the rural crisis,” said Duane Morris partner Delphine O’Rourke, who advises hospitals on emergency planning. “Who is actually going to pay for the care?”