CEO Messages

Hospital Challenges Amplified in Rural Areas      

Financial challenges. Workforce issues. Potential $25 minimum wage. Seismic mandate. Rising pharmaceutical costs. Unfair health plan payment practices.

Although hospitals throughout California may be dealing with these issues, the impacts are felt especially hard by our rural and critical access hospitals serving some of our most vulnerable communities. Earlier this week, Hospital Council was proud to partner with the California Hospital Association to host the Rural Health Care Symposium in Sacramento.

It was a chance for California rural hospital leaders to discuss the unique challenges facing rural hospitals, gain insights on navigating health care’s financial crisis, and engage with CHA leadership to talk strategy and explore paths to a more stable future.

Shawn McKenzie, CEO of Seneca Healthcare District, and Siri Nelson, CEO of Marshall Medical Center and chair of the Hospital Council Board of Trustees, participated in a roundtable of rural hospital leaders talking about the significant challenges facing rural health care. Among the items discussed were: 

  • Retention and recruitment of employees 
  • Culture and burnout of current employees  
  • Seismic mandate 
  • Discharge of patients 

This symposium preceded the release of the latest Kaufman Hall report, which shows just how dire the financial challenges are that hospitals are facing. The report provides the latest evidence of what hospital leaders across the state have been saying — one in five California hospitals is at risk of closure and life-saving health care is in jeopardy for millions. Unfortunately, Madera Community Hospital could be just the canary in the coal mine, with dozens more hospitals on the financial brink as they ponder reducing service lines just to stay open, or in some cases, outright closure. 

It is clear that rural hospitals are key to a robust, health care environment for all Californians. As we saw in Madera, the closure of just one hospital can have a significant impact on the community it served and on the surrounding hospitals that now are caring for more patients. A greater concern is that people will delay or not seek care because their closest hospital has closed — a situation that impacts health equity and health access.  While the challenges are real for rural hospitals, it is inspirational to hear the commitment of our rural health care leaders to ensure care can continue to be accessed by our rural communities. There are big problems facing our hospitals — they need and, more importantly, deserve big solutions.