Over the last two months, the number of rural hospital closures has risen rapidly to 87 total closures (since 2010). In rural America, health care is a pillar of the community. It helps to create and foster a sustainable and livable environment for rural Americans, and without health care, without a hospital, a rural community will crumble.

Here in our home state, Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center, a 116 bed PPS Hospital in Kennett, Missouri closed on June 12, the fourth rural hospital in Missouri to close. Just before its closures ad decision was made for Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center to consolidate operations with Poplar Bluff (Mo.) Regional Medical Center.

“As healthcare delivery evolves and medical innovation makes inpatient services less needed, consolidating operations with the larger resources of Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center became the most sustainable plan for the future,” Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center CEO Christian Jones said in a statement to KAIT. “We plan to continue offering excellent outpatient care locally, which is how 95 percent of our patients’ medical needs were provided last year.”

Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center’s 259 employees will be laid off when the hospital closes, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice filed April 30. However, those employees had the opportunity to meet with representatives of Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center last week to help them identify positions they may be able to transfer to, according to the report.

As access to care in rural communities disappears, we need the support of Congress now more than ever to stop the flood of hospital closures and create an environment in which innovation can thrive. A multifaceted approach is necessary to address the struggles of rural health care providers including hospitals:

  • The first prong of this approach is to ensure rural providers reimbursement rates are sufficient to allow them to keep their doors open.
  • second prong is to support measures that reduce the cost of providing care including through regulatory relief efforts that reduce costs without negatively impacting patient care.
  • The third prong of this approach is to support new models that allow communities to retain necessary access to local care including a local emergency room while right sizing their facilities to flexibly meet the needs of the specific community.

Together, these policies can all begin to bring rural health care into the 21stCentury and ensure its successful future.