Less than two years after opening a state-of-the-art $26 million hospital in Leadville, Colorado, St. Vincent Health nearly ran out of money.
Hospital officials said in early December that without a cash infusion they would be unable to pay their bills or meet payroll by the end of the week.
The eight-bed rural hospital had turned a $2.2 million profit in 2021, but the windfall was largely a mirage. Pandemic relief payments masked problems in the way the hospital billed for services and collected payments.
In 2022, St. Vincent lost nearly $2.3 million. It was at risk of closing and leaving the 7,400 residents of Lake County without a hospital or immediate emergency care. A $480,000 bailout from the county and an advance of more than $1 million from the state kept the doors open and the lights on.
Since 2010, 145 rural hospitals across the U.S. have closed, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina. But covid-19 relief measures slowed that trend. Only 10 rural hospitals shut down in 2021 and 2022 combined, after a record 19 in 2020. Two rural hospitals have closed already this year.
Now that those covid funds are gone, many challenges that threatened rural hospitals before the pandemic have resurfaced. Industry analysts warn that rural facilities, …