In western New York State, health care facilities are facing an unprecedented crush of staffing shortages combined with the winter surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations. Multiple counties in western New York have less than 10% of available beds, lower than the statewide percentage of 24%.

From the story on Government Technology: “Rural hospitals face similar challenges as their larger counterparts — only more magnified in some ways.

For example, smaller hospitals often have a tougher time managing rising costs over time, “particularly if the extra added expense of treating labor-intensive Covid-19 patients does not abate,” Fitch Ratings wrote in a report this fall. That pressure, the credit ratings agency noted, could be heightened in communities with low Covid-19 vaccination rates, which is the environment many rural hospitals operate in.”

“Since 2005, there have been 180 rural hospital closures in the United States, including 97 complete closures and 83 that were converted to no longer provide inpatient care but continue to provide some health care services, according to the University of North Carolina’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

Further, it appears the financial position of rural hospitals is deteriorating.

Today, 46% of the country’s rural hospitals are in the red, a jump from 39% in 2015, according to an analysis released in February by the Chartis Center for Rural Health. That analysis also found the average rural hospital has just 33 days of cash on hand, meaning it could operate for just over a month if no additional revenue came in the door.”

Like other areas of rural America, rural New York State faces hospital closures due to rising costs, expensive traveling staff, and the increase in COVID cases. According to the story, the state received roughly $278 million in American Rescue Plan funds, with multiple hospitals in western New York receiving emergency funds.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

SOURCE: The Rural Blog, www.govtech.com