Rural Hospitals Are Caught in an Aging-Infrastructure Conundrum

Kevin Stansbury, the CEO of Lincoln Community Hospital in the 800-person town of Hugo, Colorado, is facing a classic Catch-22: He could boost his rural hospital’s revenues by offering hip replacements and shoulder surgeries, but the 64-year-old hospital needs more money to be able to expand its operating room to do those procedures.

“I’ve got a surgeon that’s willing to do it. My facility isn’t big enough,” Stansbury said. “And urgent services like obstetrics I can’t do in my hospital, because my facility won’t meet code.”

Rural hospitals throughout the nation are facing a similar conundrum. An increase in costs amid lower payments from insurance plans makes it harder for small hospitals to fund large capital improvement projects. And high inflation and rising interest rates coming out of the pandemic are making it tougher for aging facilities to qualify for loans or other types of financing to upgrade their facilities to meet the ever-changing standards of medical care.

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