To Survive, Rural Hospitals Team Up

The alliance offers the rural members multiple advantages. One of the most important is in purchasing


By Michael Ollove

Stateline.org

WILLCOX, Ariz. — Ask Sam Lindsey about the importance of Northern Cochise Community Hospital and he’ll give you a wry grin. You might as well be asking the 77-year-old city councilman to choose between playing pickup basketball — as he still does most Fridays — and being planted 6 feet under the Arizona dust.

Lindsey believes he’s above ground, and still playing point guard down at the Mormon church, because of Northern Cochise. Last Christmas, he suffered a severe stroke in his home. He survived, he said, because his wife, Zenita, got him to the hospital within minutes. If it hadn’t been there, she would have had to drive him 85 miles to Tucson Medical Center.

There are approximately 2,300 rural hospitals in the U.S., most of them concentrated in the Midwest and the South. For a variety of reasons, many of them are struggling to survive. In the last five years, Congress has sharply reduced spending on Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, and the patients at rural hospitals tend to be older than those at urban or suburban ones. Rural hospitals in sparsely populated areas see fewer patients but still have to maintain emergency rooms and beds for acute care. They serve many people who are uninsured and can’t afford to pay for the services they receive.

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