In total, 26 people died in the storms, including one of Sharkey-Issaquena’s employees.
“If the hospital hadn’t been there that night, I think the death and suffering would have been worse than it was,” said hospital administrator Jerry Keever.
But rural hospitals like Sharkey-Issaquena are especially at risk, with poverty, population decline and declining inpatient revenue cutting into revenue. In 2020, a record 18 were closed or converted to outpatient facilities, according to the University of North Carolina’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.
Federal aid allocated by Congress during the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have slowed the rate of closures, with 10 hospitals closing or changing between 2021 and 2022. rising costs.
This is the first story in a series examining the financial situation of rural hospitals after the pandemic, and how communities are grappling with the future now that federal aid is drying up.