COVID-19 Furloughs And Retirements Likely To Hurt Rural Hospitals Most

The pandemic could mean lasting changes for Texas health care workers and hospitals.

By Alexandra HartApril 28, 2020 3:00 pm, ,

Hospitals and health care providers have had to quickly adjust their operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But some of those changes might have lasting effects on Texas’ health care system.

Bita Kash is professor of health policy and management at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health. She told Texas Standard host David Brown that the biggest changes will likely be among the health care workforce. Many clinics are closed because of state orders, and non-essential surgeries were temporarily prohibited. As a result, some doctors, nurses and others lost their jobs.

“About 50% in some hospitals, of health care workers, have been furloughed in the month of March,” Kash said.

Without elective procedures, hospitals lost an important source of revenue that helps cover the cost of expensive emergency and intensive care departments. On top of that, hospitals are now spending more money treating COVID-19 patients.

With some doctors out of work, others choosing to retire early and still others becoming sick with the disease, Kush said that puts more pressure on an already struggling rural hospital system and the pool of doctors who work in it. Even before the pandemic, many rural hospitals in Texas were fighting to stay in business. And those facilities, too, have lost of revenue from the prohibition of elective procedures.

“We’re concerned about rural hospitals closures more than we were already experiencing,” Kash said.

Kash also said the pandemic has changed training procedures for new doctors.

Web story by Caroline Covington.


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