Hospital closures throw communities into disarray, particularly in rural areas. Shutdowns disrupt emergency health services, putting locals at risk of injury and death. While urban areas (e.g. Washington D.C.) can generally finance alternative emergency care; poorer regions often lack resources to cope, especially after disasters like storms or fires.
Why Do Hospitals Close?
Many U.S. hospitals simply run out of money due to declining patient rates and uninsured patients. Others hemorrhage staff and can’t support community needs. Still others flounder because of inefficient management or logistical/infrastructure problems.
Industry observers worry that this crisis will worsen in the next few years. The Health Resources and Services Organization reports that “Hospitals located in rural areas have been closing their doors more frequently and at higher rates than urban facilities in recent years — and a pattern of increasing financial distress suggests that more are likely to falter.”
Decaying facilities also cause serious health hazards and lead to many closures nationwide. For example, rust and concrete particles spread through the air ducts of a faltering Long Island hospital. The facility was shut down due to the safety hazard, but many more hospitals continue to operate despite crumbling infrastructure.
What Happens to Communities When Hospitals Close?
Hospitals can disappear without a trace in a very short time. Only 10 states mandate a government review prior to a hospital shutdown. Many hospitals operate as traditional businesses, and the government treats them as such. Tragically, this model offers little protection for communities cut loose from care. Patients just have to drive to other facilities. In low-service areas, however, this can mean patients need to travel an hour or more just to find an emergency room. Some communities have formed volunteer task forces for emergency responders to mitigate these dangers.
Did you or someone you love suffer harm because of a hospital in a bad state of repair. Our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can give you insight and peace of mind. Call our offices for a confidential consultation.
Tagged Public Health