Medicare Funding Cut Forces Closure
Following the loss of Medicare funding several weeks earlier, Cochise Regional Hospital of Douglas, Arizona closed on July 31, 2015. As a result of the hospital’s closure, all of the employees lost their jobs.
The city of Douglas, located 120 miles southeast of Tuscon has, a population of roughly 18,000 residents. Douglas is situated on the border between Mexico and The United States.
This is not the first time that Cochise Regional Hospital found itself financially struggling. It had filed for bankruptcy protection on two earlier occasions.
Cochise Regional had in recent years come under new ownership, and was being managed by People’s Choice Hospital, a company that operates many hospitals and healthcare facilities throughout the country.
Government Justifies Medicare Cuts
In explaining why the governing bodies in charge of dispensing Medicare funding decided to cut off Cochise Regional, officials noted several issues with the everyday operation of the hospital.
The staff in many departments were not trained properly, and in several sensitive situations, failed to either monitor a patient or medicate a patient correctly. In one of the situations, the patient subsequently died, allegedly due to the hospital’s error.
In a court hearing, Cochise Regional Hospital did not dispute any of the government’s claims.
The 25 bed hospital tried procuring a restraining order on July 10 as an attempt to continue Medicare funding. However, the court rejected the motion.
Hospital Closure Continues Nation Wide Trend
The rate of rural hospitals closing or filing for bankruptcy protection is happening at an alarming rate. Many small towns are being left with limited or no healthcare access within dozens of miles.
“It’s an endemic issue across the country, said Harly Goldstein, the lawyer representing Cochise Regional Hospital, “and until something changes, the United States and most of its rural areas are going to be left under served with medical care, particularly emergency medical care.”
No Healthcare Option Close By
After the hospitals’s closure, even patients seeking emergency care will have to drive approximately 20 miles west to Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, Arizona. That drastic change in the area’s medical care will affect not only residents of Douglas, but the many border patrol agents that are on duty in, or close to, the town. This has left many worried with the future of healthcare in Douglas.
“Often when the main part of a community’s safety net – the hospital in a rural community – goes by the wayside, you have basically unraveled those strands and even access to primary care and preventative services go away,” said Daniel Derksen from the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health. “People won’t able to get their routine health maintenance.”