- The only hospital that was left in Wharton, Texas has closed down, Modern Healthcare reported.
- The Gulf Coast Medical Center is diverting patients to El Campo Memorial or Richmond-based OakBend Medical Center, which has cost taxpayers at least $16,000, Wharton Emergency Services Director John Kowalik told local newspaper Victoria Advocate.
- The closure follows a downward trend among rural hospitals in the U.S.
Gulf Coast Medical Center, which is just south of Houston, had been on the verge of closing for months, according to Victoria Advocate. It had stopped offering most of its services and only remained operating as a walk-in emergency center.
Rural hospitals have been valuable to patients in ways that some urban hospitals haven't been. For example, these hospitals have a higher overall performance score than their urban counterparts in Medicare's value-based purchasing program. But rural hospitals continue to close. Cuts to Medicare payments and hospitals with a high-volume of patients being favored over those with lower volumes are some of the contributing factors to rural hospital closures. At least 71 rural hospitals have closed since 2010 and, according to the National Rural Health Association, an additional 683 are at risk of closing.
Pending legislation from Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) introduced in July seeks to eliminate Medicare sequestration and reverse bad debt reimbursement cuts, providing some relief for rural hospitals.