The sole hospital in Wharton, Texas, a town south of Houston, has closed. Gulf Coast Medical Center is directing residents to either El Campo (Texas) Memorial or OakBend Medical Center in Richmond, which are more than a half-hour away. The hospital, which first opened its doors in 1961 and was once owned by HCA, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last week.
Lower inpatient volume and falling reimbursement rates have caused many rural facilities to fail in recent years.
The National Rural Health Association has identified 283 other rural hospitals across the country that are in danger of going under—more than 10% of all such facilities. The group found that the financial conditions of the hospitals just hanging on are similar to facilities that already have closed. More than a third of rural hospitals operated at a deficit in 2013, according to the association.