When a rural hospital closes, the surrounding community not only loses a trusted health provider but faces the loss of a significant amount of jobs.
That hits close to home, with rural hospitals right here in Central Texas having fewer than 50 beds; like Goodall-Witcher Healthcare in Bosque county or Rollins Brook Community Hospital in Lampasas County, both with 25 beds.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is providing Texas hospitals in rural areas with $29,713,240 in funding to support their COVID-19 response efforts.
The funding comes through the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP) which will assist 115 rural hospitals with COVID-19 testing and support as they potentially face new variants; this is just after a recent study revealed that 62 percent of hospitals in rural communities did not have any intensive care unit (ICU) beds available.
“Today’s funding will help small rural hospitals continue to serve their communities in this critical role by expanding their COVID-19 testing capacity and mitigation efforts," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Smaller Texas hospitals with fewer than 50 beds are important in terms of health access to their surrounding communities, according to the HHS release. Those hospitals can use the funds, $258,376 per hospital, to mitigate COVID-19 testing and other needs residents may have.
“Our state-based SHIP grantees are important partners in helping to support small rural hospitals,” said HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa. “HRSA is committed to mitigating the spread of the virus in rural areas by supporting and empowering local providers to tailor their responses to COVID-19 to what works for their communities.”
Texas received the largest proportion of funding from SHIP, likely because Texas had the greatest number of hospital closures and the highest number of rural hospitals that are identified as vulnerable, according to The Chartis Group study on the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on rural health's stability.