Since 2010, 113 rural hospitals have closed. An additional 21 percent of rural hospitals — a total of 430 facilities — are at high risk of closure. Further complicating matters, 64 percent of those hospitals are considered essential to their communities — a designation made based on a hospital’s trauma center status, its service to vulnerable populations, its distance from other hospitals, and the economic impact it has on a region. Research indicates that access to healthcare and economic vitality are severely reduced following a rural hospital closure. Expected outcomes include :
- Increased time and cost of transportation to healthcare services (particularly among seniors, who experience an average of 14 additional minutes in an ambulance).
- Initial increases in the number of births in hospitals without obstetric care units (3%) and an increase in preterm births (0.67%), though those rates decrease over time, possibly as communities adjust.
- Reduced per capita income (-4%) and increased unemployment (1.6%) due to the loss of jobs for hospital staff and outward migration of community members.