As Rural Hospitals Feel Financial Squeeze, Arizona's Look Locally For Partnerships

By Claire Caulfield
Published: Friday, July 13, 2018 - 12:04pm
Updated: Monday, July 16, 2018 - 7:13am
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Due to financial strain, rural hospital closures have increased 34 percent since 2015.

To remain open, some stand-alone hospitals have incorporated into regional providers or accepted buyouts from for-profit chains. Recently, a rural hospital near the Navajo Nation placed 27 percent of its employees on furlough.

However, Arizona hospitals stood out to researcher Chinue Uecker when she examined rural hospitals across the country during a recent study.

“In Arizona, the unique instance that I found was rural hospital leaders really looked locally to look for partnerships,” she said.

The drive to remain independent impressed her. Partnerships are vital to a rural hospital’s success said Uecker, and Arizona rural hospital leaders chose local pharmacies, rural clinics and critical access hospitals.

“When they were talking about those local partnerships, it was really more so from a standpoint of rolling up their sleeves and going out to meet them,” she said. “Not just email or phone calls but really going out to meet those pharmacies to find out ‘how we can partner together?”

The National Rural Health Association said rural hospitals are often the first or second largest employer in a community, and while other rural hospitals may turn to larger healthcare organizations to remain open, Arizona’s choice to partner with local entities strengthens the entire community by providing additional healthcare related jobs.

“And so instead of looking in a large system lets look in our own backyard,” Uecker said.

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