5 Washington hospitals face 'imminent closure' as COVID-19 wreaks havoc

Before the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., many rural hospitals across the nation were already facing financial challenges. Declines in business in March may force five cash-strapped hospitals in Washington to shut their doors for good, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Though Washington is one of the states hit hardest by COVID-19, hospitals in rural areas of the state have yet to see a surge in patients. Their emergency departments are quiet, and their operating rooms are shut down after Gov. Jay Inslee ordered hospitals to halt most elective surgeries on March 19.

The lull in patients and lost revenue from canceling elective surgeries may bankrupt some rural hospitals or force them to close. At least 13 rural hospitals in Washington have less than 45 days cash on hand. Five of those hospitals face "imminent closure," according to a March 20 letter from the Washington State Hospital Association to the governor obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The hospital association is requesting $40 million in grants for hospitals in financial distress.

"The healthcare delivery system in Washington state is at a crisis point as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak," the letter states. "We expect certain hospitals to close if funding is not provided."  

The Washington State Hospital Association suggested the funding should be prioritized for hospitals with less than 45 days cash on hand, including the following five hospitals facing closure:

  • Columbia County Health System (Dayton, Wash.)
  • Grays Harbor Community Hospital (Aberdeen, Wash.)
  • Mid-Valley Hospital (Omak, Wash.)
  • Three Rivers Hospital (Brewster, Wash.)
  • WhidbeyHealth (Coupeville, Wash.)

More than 125 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and another 453 rural hospitals across the nation are vulnerable to closure.

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