Rural Hospitals are Facing Financial Ruin and Furloughing Staff During the Coronavirus Pandemic

A nurse conducts a COVID-19 test in the drive thru site at Scotland County Hospital in Memphis, Missouri.

Williamson Memorial Hospital was more than the place where Carole Steele had surgery on her elbow. It was more than the place that treated her husband Samuel when his severe allergies make it hard for him to breathe.

One doctor there was her grandniece’s godfather. Another was a trusted friend. Going to the hospital was “like going home to us,” the 73-year-old retired schoolteacher said. “For Samuel and I, that is the only hospital we have ever known.”

Now, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the hospital will close its doors Tuesday after serving the community for more than 100 years. The only hospital in the coal mining community of Mingo County, West Virginia, Williamson Memorial filed bankruptcy last year. And it’s not alone. As the deadly virus has spread beyond urban hotspots, many more small hospitals across the country are on the verge of financial ruin as they’ve been forced to cancel elective procedures, one of the few dependable sources of revenue.