In the latest example of the plight of accessing health care in rural American, a Tennessee hospital has launched a GoFundMe campaign to keep it financially stable.
“Please help save our local area hospital!!!” the Copper Basin Medical Center’s campaign fundraising page reads. “Without the help of our community we will not be able to survive!” As of Friday, the campaign had raised $1,400 of its $100,000 goal.
“The next 45 days will be our most critical period for survival,” the page says. “We have endured needed staff reductions and are critically short on supplies.”
In addition to crowdfunding, the hospital shut down its inpatients services and laid off nurses, according to the Times Free Press.
“People in the community are probably weary of the troubles the hospital has had, but we don’t have that negative outlook,” Dan Johnson, the CEO who was hired to turn the hospital around, told Stat. “We’re trying to get cash from any source we can.”
Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Copper Basin Medical Center is the only critical access hospital in Polk County. This matters because increasing the distance patients have to travel to a hospital is linked to an increased risk of mortality.
It’s also just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to beleaguered rural hospitals.
Since 2010, about 100 U.S. hospitals have closed, the Associated Press reports, with rural and urban hospitals closing at similar rates. But closures in rural areas often have a more dramatic effect, because residents must travel farther to get to the closest hospital for care. Approximately a third of rural hospitals are operating at a loss, according to Stat.
“You can imagine how terrifying it is in these communities if they believe that one of their hospitals is going to close,” Fulmer, president of the John A. Hartford Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the care of older adults, told Healthline in February.
“Not only do they lose the personal relationship with the care providers, but also how will they get to where they need to go for healthcare?”