Rural hospitals struggle in Colorado

Colorado's rural hospitals are losing money at an increasing rate and could be a reflection of the woes remote facilities are facing elsewhere in the country.

According to the Denver Post, Colorado's small-town facilities face issues that most every other rural hospital is confronting: Decreased Medicare reimbursements due to the sequester; difficulty recruiting physicians; and rising costs for equipment and fuel.

As a result, Rangely District Hospital in Northwest Colorado has canceled its ambulance service; the Cheyenne Wells Hospital in northern Colorado has begun asking residents whether it should stay open; and two small hospitals in Alamosa have decided to merge, the Post reported.

"How do we keep some level of care, even if it's just stabilizing care, in these very small communities?" Randy Kuykendall, interim director of EMS for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, questioned in the Post. "It's an ongoing battle."

Meanwhile, the lack of resources for rural facilities is putting them behind the technology curve. According to a recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, they were less likely to have intensive care and cardiac catheterization units, and mortality rates are higher, reported Counsel & Heal.

And even newer facilities, such as the recently completed Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center in Missouri, faces the challenges of serving a low-income population with chronic conditions such as diabetes, reported Kaiser Health News.

Some facilities have gotten creative to address their challenges: Melissa Memorial Hospital in Holyoke, Colo. invested tens of thousands of dollars to produce a promotional video to attract physicians. Melissa Memorial's chief executive officer told the Post its production was part of an "optimistic spirit" to get the hospital what it needed.

To learn more:
- read the Denver Post article
- check out the Counsel & Heal article
- here's the Kaiser Health News article