GALESBURG — On Jan. 19 the urologist at UnityPoint Memorial Hospital in Carthage died. Since then, Carthage’s roughly 2,500 people have not had access to a local urology clinic.
And it will stay that way until the hospital finds another urologist willing to work in the rural town, said Terry H. Marler, chief operations Officer for Memorial Hospital, said
Rural hospitals across the United States face confront obstacles that threaten their financial stability and in many cases have led to closure. According to the Sheps Center for Health Services Research, 113 rural hospitals have closed between January 2010 and the present. The National Rural Health Association wrote in 2016 that the closure rate is increasing — six times higher in 2015 than it was in 2010.
Dan Debehnke, former physician and managing director for Navigant Healthcare Strategic Solutions, said rural hospitals are in danger, with one in five at risk of closure.
“There’s definitely a crisis. The question is the solutions are complex and they are unique to each region and to each state — and so there’s not one solution to fix all,” Debehnke said.
Complications in receiving ample financial reimbursement — amid economically challenged rural communities — places a strain on rural hospitals. As does the current nationwide physician shortage, as rural hospitals tackle obstacles in recruiting and maintaining physicians in their communities.