CEO Messages

Rural Health Care Symposium Highlights Hospital Financial Instability

Millions of Californians are at risk of losing access to critical health care services as rural hospitals struggle financially. When a rural hospital closes, it is often the sole source of care for miles and miles so Californians living in these communities must travel farther for care. Those in poor health, seniors, and people experiencing poverty suffer the most.  

Last week, Hospital Council staff joined the California Hospital Association in San Diego for the 2024 Rural Health Care Symposium. It was clear from the presentations, the discussions, and the passion of our rural health leaders that protecting access to rural hospitals is important for California as a whole, not just for the communities they serve directly. 

Todd Suntrapak, President & CEO of Valley Children’s Healthcare, led a discussion on how and why rural health is a top advocacy priority for the entire hospital field. He talked about the tremendous impact that the closure of Madera Community Hospital has had on not only Madera, but on Valley Children’s Hospital and the entire Central Valley. Just one California hospital closing has a ripple effect throughout a large geographic area, impacting care at multiple hospitals. This is why protecting rural health care access is critically important and one of our top priorities this year.

The conference specifically discussed: 

  • The need for immediate financial help 
  • Developing new financial models that preserve care 
  • The importance of working collaboratively with Medi-Cal managed care organizations 

Financial instability for rural hospitals is not unique to California; it is a national trend. In fact, more than 100 rural hospitals closed between January 2013 and February 2020. The American Hospital Association’s 2024 Health Care Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida, last month discussed significant rural legislative and regulatory issues.  

Rural hospitals need immediate financial help, followed by a new financial model that preserves care. A new financing system that will cover the costs of providing care at rural and critical access hospitals will help ensure all Californians have access to the care they need and deserve.