Tennessee hospital closes as several others struggle to stay afloat

Parsons, Tenn.-based Decatur County General Hospital closed April 15. It is the 14th rural hospital in the state to shut down in the past eight years, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

The hospital closed after the Decatur County General Hospital Board voted March 31 to shut down the hospital. Though hospital officials hope to reopen Decatur County General, no timeline has been provided, according to FOX 17.

When the hospital shut down, Decatur County became one of more than 20 counties in Tennessee without a hospital. Local residents now have to travel roughly 20 miles to the nearest hospital, which is a concern for the hospital's human resources director. 

"From a healthcare perspective, there will be many that won't be able to get to a hospital in time," Melinda Hays-Kirkwood, Decatur County General's HR director told NPR. "It's just going to be a tough situation." 

Since 2012, 14 rural hospitals in Tennessee have closed, and several others are in a fragile financial position. Nineteen rural hospitals in Tennessee are at high risk of closing according to an analysis from Guidehouse, a consulting firm. The analysis looked at operating margin, days cash on hand, debt-to-capitalization ratio, current ratio and inpatient census to determine the financial viability of rural hospitals. 

The Guidehouse study analyzed the financial viability of rural hospitals prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the authors noted that the rural hospital crisis could significantly worsen due to the pandemic or any downturn in the economy. 

More articles on healthcare finance:
Rural America braces for COVID-19 as more hospitals close
Executives must take pay cuts for Arizona hospital to get state aid
Kansas hospital closes under pressure from COVID-19

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