Safety-net hospitals are 'on the brink of a precipice': Documentary examines growing profit divide

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A new documentary sheds light on the growing struggles of America's safety-net hospitals, which are struggling to stay afloat, according to PBS. 

The new documentary, The Healthcare Divide, discusses how hospitals serving low-income communities are struggling to survive, while profits at other hospital chains are booming. In particular, the documentary examines how Medicaid reimbursements have worsened the divide and the growth of hospital chains has created new struggles for safety-net facilities.  

"I think we're on the brink of a precipice," Bruce Siegel, MD, president and CEO of America's Essential Hospitals, said during the documentary. "Even before the pandemic, many of these [safety-net] hospitals were losing money, and the pandemic is only going to make that worse."

In the documentary, leaders from safety-net facilities across the country discuss the growing profit divide and struggles firsthand. 

"Unless there's a substantive change in the way safety nets are funded, things are simply going to keep going in the direction they are, which is a great disparity in how patients are taken care of," Chris Young, MD, chief of the medical staff at Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Erlanger, a safety-net hospital, said in the documentary. "That divide is only going to grow."

The documentary, from Frontline, NPR and American University's Investigative Reporting Workshop, airs May 18. 

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