By: Ron Shinkman
Times are tough for rural hospitals, and evidence does not suggest things are going to get any better.
Although one of the most rural states in the union, Maine’s rural facilities have been struggling to make ends meet. Facilities such as Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft have seen their patient census dwindle from full capacity 25 years ago to just 25% capacity today. The lack of patients has led to severe financial stress.
“We are actually one of the more financially healthy rural hospitals, and we have a $1 million hole in our budget,” Marie Vienneau, Mayo’s chief executive officer, told the Portland Press-Herald.
By contrast, hospitals in Portland, the state’s major urban area, have been expanding. State-of-the-art technology allows urban facilities to offer more specialized surgeries. As a result, patients are sent to the bigger hospitals for operations.
The situation raises questions about the viability of rural healthcare as a whole. Some 62 million Americans live in rural areas of the United States, making their ongoing access to suburban and urban hospitals more difficult. And the closure of rural hospitals can also create grave economic issues, because they are often the region’s largest employer. Altogether, as many as 13 percent of rural hospitals across the U.S. are currently vulnerable to closure.
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