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Report: 6 rural hospitals at 'high financial risk' in Tennessee

Hospital beds, Photo Date: May 15, 2017 / Photo: Pexels / (MGN)
Hospital beds, Photo Date: May 15, 2017 / Photo: Pexels / (MGN)
Published: Feb. 21, 2019 at 3:55 PM EST
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Across the United States, rural hospitals are at risk. According to a

, 95 rural hospitals across 26 states have closed since 2010.

Talk of hospital closures hits home for those in East Tennessee. Tennova

the old St. Mary's Hospital and Lakeway Regional Hospital last year. The hospital in Scott County only

in 2017, making it the third reopening in five years.

According to the report, 34 states, Tennessee included, have five or more rural hospitals at high financial risk. The Volunteer State has six. Those six, per the report, are considered "essential" to the communities they serve.

The report list several factors that have contributed to the loss of these hospitals: payer mix degradation, declining inpatient care driving excess capacity and the inability to leverage innovation.

Payer mix degradation flows from the loss of agricultural and manufacturing jobs. The report says that the people left in rural communities tend to be very old or very young. Medicare is an issue, too, as, per the report, average rural hospitals count on Medicare for 46 percent of gross patient revenue.

The report says that driving excess capacity, relates back to World War II, when most hospital were originally built to provide a level and volume of care that isn't needed today. This has left many rural hospitals "overstaffed and underused" the report says. While, on average, rural hospitals have 50 beds and 321 employees, they have, on average, only seven patients daily.

Because most rural hospitals are already budget-strapped, they are unable to keep up with the leading technology.

"Local, state, and federal political leaders, as well as the hospital administrators, must act to protect the well-being of rural hospital nationwide and the communities they serve," the report concludes.

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