A rural hospital’s impossible choice: $3.2 million a year or inpatient care?

During the Covid outbreak, Dr. Katie Camarata, the physician who cared for Ms. Wenrich, stayed awake all night with critically ill patients and called hospital systems in surrounding states. All seven refused the transfer. Eventually, Cascade staff built their own negative-pressure rooms so that highly contagious patients could be kept at home without infecting others.

Providing inpatient care “comes to a moral conclusion,” said Don Rosebrook, 75, who was admitted to Cascade in October with pancreatitis pain that he said was “worse than my broken leg in Vietnam.” He stayed for five days. When he was able to eat again, his doctor, Dr. Ron Ellsworth went to T9 Grocery to buy him pudding.

Some hospitals have already taken the decision to accept the government’s offer. St. Margaret’s Health in Illinois told community members Two hospitals less than four miles apart would convert one to a rural emergency, but keep the other full-service. Sturgis Hospital in Michigan was struggling Operating on credit On learning of the new post, it said it would be transferred.

Others plan to abandon it. Chief executives at Ouachita County Medical Center in Camden, Ark.; Southern Inio Hospital in Lone Pine, California; And Comanche County Hospital in Coldwater, Kan., said cutting inpatient services was unacceptable to their aging population.

Tim Reeves, chief executive of the 16-bed Bucktail Medical Center in Renovo, Pa., rejected the change because if there was another outbreak, “I wouldn’t be able to transfer my patients anywhere else.”

In 2021, Bucktail’s funding margin for patient services was negative 43 percent.

“Am I going to lose some revenue? It is possible,” he said. “But is it really important to provide the services that are needed? That’s the position we’re taking.”

At Cascade, the decision doesn’t seem so simple. Perhaps a hospital without inpatient services is better than no hospital at all.

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