Financial woes, closures for rural hospitals intensify

Rural hospitals continue to be under intense financial pressure, and two facilities have shut down in recent weeks in Nevada and Arizona as a result.

One of the facilities, Nye Regional Medical Center in Tonopah, Nevada, had been the subject of repeated financial upheavals connected to its prior management. It closed on Aug. 21, although its emergency department will remain open, the Las Vegas Sun has reported.

"The hospital operations cannot be sustained any longer with expenses greater than revenues," Nye County CEO Wayne Allen wrote in a public letter. "In an effort to save the hospital, we have tried to arrange partnerships/affiliations with other healthcare organizations. These efforts have been unsuccessful due to our small size and remote location. We are out of options, time and funding." The hospital has made arrangements with two counties in eastern California to transport some of its would-be patients to their hospitals in a timely fashion.

The hospital had previously been in bankruptcy protection, and the responsible executive during that time, Jerry Seelig, had cut back staff and other costs to bring the hospital stability. He left the post earlier this year and was replaced by Allen.

Meanwhile, Cochise Regional Hospital in Douglas, Arizona, also closed its doors on July 31. Residents of the town, with a population of 17,000, now have to travel 27 miles to the nearest facility, the Silver City Daily Press has reported.

Cochise Regional is the 55th rural hospital in the United States to close in the last five years. Presumably, Nye County is the 56th. However, Cochise Regional's funding woes were different that Nye County's, with it having been disqualified from the Medicare program for a variety of violations, according to the Silver City Daily News.

Rural hospitals are being hit hard by cuts in reimbursement, service areas with thinning populations and other issues. In recent years, more rural facilities have been partnering with larger and more financially capable providers. Among them is a facility nearby to Cochise Regional, Northern Cochise Community Hospital. It has joined with three other rural providers and Tucson Medical Center to form the Southern Arizona Hospital Alliance.

To learn more:
- read the Las Vegas Sun article 
- check out the Silver City Daily Press article

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