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Rural health care is dying

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https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/17/us/hospital-closing-missouri-pregnant.html?action=click&module=Top Stories&pgtype=Homepage



The white, 116-bed hospital had been a busy lifeline for this 31,000-person county’s most vulnerable people. The emergency room received about 22,000 visits a year, and unlike many struggling hospitals, the maternity ward was busy. About 400 babies were born at Twin Rivers every year, often to mothers who had themselves been born in the same rooms.


About 95 percent of the hospital’s patients were on Medicare, Medicaid or had no insurance, said Dr. Steve Pu, a former member of the hospital’s advisory board. Rural hospitals like Kennett’s are being financially battered by several factors: Cuts to public health-insurance programs, struggles with debt and sharply worsening finances in states that did not expand Medicaid.


In April, Twin Rivers announced it would be shutting down as part of a corporate consolidation by its owner, Community Health Systems, a publicly traded, for-profit hospital company. In a statement announcing the closing, the hospital’s local chief executive, Christian H. Jones, called it the “most sustainable plan for the future.”


Patients say they were told to seek care at another Community Health Systems hospital in Poplar Bluff, about 50 miles away down narrow two-lane roads. The hospital in Kennett had about 300 employees, the largest employer in a county with a 5.5 percent unemployment rate.


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