Short on finances, Copper Basin Medical Center, the only hospital in Polk County, Tennessee, has halted certain services, laid off some employees—and set up a GoFundMe page.
During an emergency meeting with staff and community members, CFO Tim Henry explained that the hospital shut down inpatient care and laid off more than 15 nurses because it did not have enough money to continue those services.
He added that because the hospital did not have sufficient cash in its payroll to pay all of the laid-off nurses, it opted to prioritize lower-wage employees. Some higher-wage employees who were laid off are still waiting for payment.
Separately, board member Jack Collins said the hospital is in financial crisis, saying that funds have been mismanaged in recent years and that the hospital did not collet debt from patient accounts.
However, Collins added that aside from the suspension of inpatient services, the hospital is otherwise open. "Our [ED] is still open. We still do x-rays," he said. "Still come to our hospital."
Launching a GoFundMe page
The hospital also has launched a GoFundMe page. The post reads, "We are asking for any donations that the community, or anyone willing to donate to a valuable cause can make."
The operating managers hope to have the financial issues resolved in time to resume inpatient services at the start of the next fiscal year. "We feel very confident that in the next 30 days we will see a good influx of cash. Sixty days, 90 days, build up some reserve to reopen the inpatient unit by [Oct. 1]," Henry said.
As of Tuesday morning, the hospital has raised $375 of its $100,000 fundraising goal (Smith, WRCB, 5/9; Walton, Chattanooga Times Free Press, 5/10; Copper Basin GoFundMe, 5/8).
Critical access hospitals: Challenges and opportunities
The small scale and inherently unfavorable market environment of CAHs mean even small changes in circumstance—from Meaningful Use mandates to an aging patient population—can represent existential threats.
To thrive, CAH leaders must define the set of needs they will satisfy for their communities, build strong relationships with tertiary providers, invest in innovative care models to reduce labor demand, and maximize operating efficiency.
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