In a month that celebrates President’s Day, recognizes Black History Month and Women Doctors Day and promotes equality, as news was previously released, the healthcare industry, especially in support of local health equity Recall the current vulnerability of Another rural California hospital was in danger of closing this month.
El Centro Regional Medical Center, the largest hospital in Imperial County, is expected to run out of funds to keep open by the end of March. The 300-bed hospital, which serves 180,000 people in a geographically isolated area of rural Southern California, could be just the latest in a serious list of rural hospitals to close. A recent analysis from the University of North Carolina found that 186 rural hospitals have closed since 2005, and Becker’s Hospital Review reports 21 closures in 2020 alone.
The plight of El Centro is a cautionary tale for California and other rural and remote communities in the United States. hospitals are also facing unprecedented economic headwinds, with some having to make incredibly difficult decisions about the sustainability of their programs and services – in the case of El Centro, they may shut down .
According to the American Hospital Association, US hospital costs will increase by $135 billion from 2021 to 2022. Additionally, all of California’s hospitals are grappling with looming, underfunded 2030 seismic requirements that are estimated to cost $34 billion to $143 billion, according to an analysis conducted. . Created by RAND Corporation in 2019. These estimates are before post-pandemic cost increases. Especially in California, rural and urban hospitals alike face financial headwinds unprecedented in modern healthcare history.
Much like the earthquake we faced together as a community just a few weeks ago, the healthcare industry also experienced a significant earthquake shock caused by the global pandemic that spanned several years. And while the initial shock has subsided, all healthcare organizations are now facing devastating effects and a long road to recovery that many within our own North Coast community are familiar with. facing
Much of the news about rural health care and rural health equity is deplorable given the economic impact on communities like ours, but in the face of such significant adversity. There is much to be admired for each of the successes we have achieved together in advancing access to health care. Respected author, educator, and presidential adviser Booker T. Washington once said: This message is a reminder of how precious each step we take together as we walk the difficult road to recovery and how important it is to celebrate that journey together.
One great example of progress is our recent announcement to healthcare professionals that construction of the Acute Rehabilitation Unit (ARU) at Redwood Memorial Hospital will resume. ARU is an essential service for patients recovering from trauma, stroke, heart attack, and more. As you may know, a few years ago a bill was passed in the California Legislature that necessitated finding a new home for this unit due to seismic upgrade requirements from the state. The project to build a brand-new ARU in Fortuna has undergone many “twists and twists” since its inception, but was recently put on hold over the course of the pandemic.
During this time, construction and material costs skyrocketed, dramatically impacting the timeline and cost of this project. It was originally expected to cost about $8 million. Recognizing the importance of equitable access to these highly beneficial services for our communities, our Providence leadership team is committed to ensuring that access to acute rehabilitation services can be maintained sustainably. In recent months, we have been tasked with working with internal and external stakeholders to relaunch this initiative. for years.
Despite the huge headwinds we are facing and are still facing, please help us celebrate this investment (currently around $20M+) with our communities and take this meaningful step towards ensuring equitable access to health. I would like to express my gratitude to all those who across the North Coast. As Booker T. Washington suggests, we look forward to celebrating the obstacles that have been overcome, and are happy to share our successes together.
Darien Harris is the Chief Executive Officer of Providence, Humboldt County.