15 hospitals have closed this year — here's why

Ayla Ellison (Twitter) - Print  | 

From reimbursement landscape challenges to dwindling patient volumes, many factors lead hospitals to shut down. In recent months, financial damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has put many hospitals in a fragile financial position and forced a few to close. 

Here are the factors that led 15 hospitals to close so far this year:

1. Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health closed Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Ashland, Ky., on April 30. The 214-bed hospital was originally slated to shut down in September of this year, but the timeline was moved up after employees began accepting new jobs or tendering resignations. Bon Secours cited local competition as one reason for the hospital closure. Despite efforts to help sustain hospital operations, Bon Secours was unable to "effectively operate in an environment that has multiple acute care facilities competing for the same patients, providers and services," the health system said. 

2. Williamson (W.Va.) Hospital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October and was operating on thin margins for months before shutting down on April 21. The 76-bed hospital said a drop in patient volume due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to close. CEO Gene Preston said the decline in patient volume was "too sudden and severe" for the hospital to sustain operations. 

3. Parsons, Tenn.-based Decatur County General Hospital closed April 15, a few weeks after the local hospital board voted to shut it down. Decatur County Mayor Mike Creasy said the closure was attributable to a few factors, including rising costs, Tennessee's lack of Medicaid expansion and broader financial challenges facing the rural healthcare system in the U.S. 

4. Pinnacle Regional Hospital in Overland Park, Kan., and its affiliated clinics closed in early April. Pinnacle Regional, formerly named Blue Valley Hospital, shut down about two months after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy trustee said the hospital closed due to "unforeseen and unexpected business circumstances, including the disruption to a wide range of surgeries and business operations created by the COVID-19 pandemic." The hospital is owned by Pinnacle Healthcare. 

5. UPMC Susquehanna Sunbury (Pa.) closed March 31. Pittsburgh-based UPMC announced plans in December to close the rural hospital, citing dwindling patient volumes. Sunbury's population was 9,905 at the 2010 census, down more than 6 percent from 10 years earlier. Though the hospital officially closed its doors in March, it shut down its emergency department and ended inpatient services Jan. 31. 

6. Irvine, Calif.-based Alecto Healthcare Services closed Fairmont (W.Va.) Regional Medical Center on March 19. Alecto announced plans in February to close the 207-bed hospital, citing financial challenges. "Our plans to reorganize some administrative functions and develop other revenue sources were insufficient to stop the financial losses at FRMC," Fairmont Regional CEO Bob Adcock said. "Our efforts to find a buyer or new source of financing were unsuccessful." Morgantown-based West Virginia University Medicine plans to build a hospital in Fairmont. Though it will be roughly two years before the new hospital opens, WVU Medicine plans to operate an emergency department and acute beds at Fairmont Regional until the new facility is ready for patients.

7. Sumner Community Hospital in Wellington, Kan., closed March 12 without providing notice to employees or the local community. Kansas City, Mo.-based Rural Hospital Group, which acquired the hospital in 2018, cited financial difficulties and lack of support from local physicians as reasons for the closure. "Lack of support from the local medical community was the primary reason we are having to close the hospital," RHG said. "We regret having to make this decision; however, despite operating the hospital in the most fiscally responsible manner possible, we simply could not overcome the divide that has existed from the time we purchased the hospital until today." 

8. Carrollton, Ala.-based Pickens County Medical Center closed March 6. Hospital leaders said the closure was attributable to the hospital's unsustainable financial position. A news release announcing the closure specifically cited reduced federal funding, lower reimbursement from commercial payers and declining patient visits.

9. The Medical Center at Elizabeth Place, a 12-bed hospital owned by physicians in Dayton, Ohio, closed March 5. The closure came after years of financial problems. In January 2019, the Medical Center at Elizabeth Place lost its certification as a hospital, meaning it couldn't bill Medicare or Medicaid for services. Sixty to 65 percent of the hospital's patients were covered through the federal programs.

10. Mayo Clinic Health System closed its hospital in Springfield, Minn., on March 1. Mayo announced plans in December to close the hospital and its clinics in Springfield and Lamberton, Minn. At that time, James Hebl, MD, regional vice president of Mayo Clinic Health System, said the facilities faced staffing challenges, dwindling patient volumes and other issues. The hospital in Springfield is one of eight hospitals within a less than 40-mile radius, which has led to declining admissions and low use of the emergency department, Dr. Hebl said.

11. Central Hospital of Bowie (Texas) abruptly closed Feb. 4. Hospital officials said the facility was shut down to enable them to restructure the business. Hospital leaders voluntarily surrendered the license for Central Hospital of Bowie. 

12. Ellwood City (Pa.) Medical Center officially closed Jan. 31. The hospital was operating under a provisional license in November when the Pennsylvania Department of Health ordered it to suspend inpatient and emergency services due to serious violations, including failure to pay employees and the inability to offer surgical services. The hospital's owner, Americore Health, suspended all clinical services at Ellwood City Medical Center Dec. 10. At that time, hospital officials said they hoped to reopen the facility in January. Plans to reopen were halted Jan. 3 after the health department conducted an onsite inspection and determined the hospital "had not shown its suitability to resume providing any health care services."

13. Los Angeles-based St. Vincent Medical Center closed in January, roughly three weeks after El Segundo, Calif.-based Verity Health announced plans to shut down the 366-bed hospital. Verity, a nonprofit health system that entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018, shut down St. Vincent after a deal to sell four of its hospitals fell through. In April, Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Times, purchased St. Vincent out of bankruptcy for $135 million. 

14. Astria Regional Medical Center in Yakima, Wash., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May and closed in January. When the hospital closed, 463 employees lost their jobs. Attorneys representing Astria Health said the closure of Astria Regional Medical Center, which has lost $40 million since 2017, puts Astria Health in a better financial position. "As a result of the closure … the rest of the system's cash flows will be sufficient to safely operate patient care operations and facilities and maintain administrative solvency of the estate," states a status report filed Jan. 20 with the bankruptcy court.

15. Pinnacle Regional Hospital in Boonville, Mo., closed Jan. 15. Officials cited the need for costly repairs as the reason for the closure. Pinnacle Regional shut down about a month after the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services inspected the hospital and cited it for sterile processing procedures. Hospital officials initially said they were working with the state to rectify the situation, but they ultimately decided to close the facility instead of making the repairs. The hospital is owned by Pinnacle Healthcare. 

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