30 Alabama hospitals in jeopardy as pandemic pressures persist

More than 800 hospitals — 40 percent of all rural hospitals in the country — were either at immediate or high risk of closure before the COVID-19 pandemic, and continuing financial pressures have some Alabama hospitals on the brink of shutting down. 

Of the 800 hospitals at risk of closure before the pandemic, 30 were in Alabama, according to a January report from the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform. Since the report was released, many hospitals in the state have seen their financial situation deteriorate because of the pandemic, Alabama Hospital Association President and CEO Don Williamson, MD, told the Alabama Public Reporter Sept. 17. 

Dr. Williamson said Alabama hospitals need about $200 million in federal funds to cover lost revenue and higher expenses tied to the pandemic. Hospitals lost revenue because they halted nonemergency procedures, and they're facing higher expenses tied to the cost of travel nurses hired to bolster staff. 

Seven rural hospitals in Alabama have closed since 2005, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. With about 80 percent of Alabama's hospitals losing revenue before the pandemic, Dr. Williamson said he fears more hospitals will be forced to shutter. 

"What I'm worried about is when we get through this spike we'll have hospitals that spent all of their reserves to get through this spike, then we end up losing the hospitals from the system before we get to another spike," Dr. Williamson told the Alabama Public Reporter. "We need dollars now to help address the crisis we're in now." 

Alabama is one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid, and it is among states with the highest adult uninsured rates.

Read the full Alabama Public Reporter article here

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