rural areas need hospitals too

The World Health Organization views health care as a fundamental human right. If this is true, why can rural hospitals not keep their doors open? Between 2010-2022 more than 130 hospitals had to close due to a lack of funding and limited healthcare professionals. There are many causes of this, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the overturning of Roe v Wade.

if healthcare is a human right, why do these hospitals keep closing?

To begin, on the financial side, During the COVID-19 pandemic most rural hospitals received federal grants that allowed them to continue serving patients, at a time when the need for medical care was at a high. Now that federal assistance has ended and the patient count is down, these hospitals are not generating nearly enough revenue. The CEO of the Center for Healthcare Quality states, “Costs have been increasing significantly and payments, particularly from commercial insurance plans, have not increased correspondingly with that.”

Following that, due to the strictness of reproductive rights, in particular abortion laws, rural hospitals do not have the staff to offer the services they used to. Healthcare providers who work in maternity, gynecology, and obstetrics are opting to leave states where abortion laws penalize them. These doctors and nurses can face: the loss of their license, fines, and even prison time, along with a criminal record for performing or recommending abortion of any kind. The closing of maternity and gynecology units has created a phenomenon known as “maternity care deserts”.

Due to these closings, health care is becoming harder to access than ever before. The health of citizens in rural areas is already at a disadvantage. Due to their usually scenic locations, citizens are farther from grocery stores, doctors, and dentist’s offices. Meaning they eat more shelf-stable meals, do not attend yearly checkups, and limit exposure to others. According to the National Insulation for Health, citizens in rural areas are more likely to die prematurely due to heart disease and diabetes. Which is correlated with their access to safe and nearby health care.

Rural Hospital Closures Maps, 2010 – Present

Take for example, where most of my fellow bloggers and I are: Harrisonburg, Virginia. There is a hospital just moments away from James Madison University, about a ten-minute drive. This hospital serves all of Rockingham County and has a population of about 85,000 people. Yet, this hospital is still considered rural, because of its geographical location. If their doors were to close, the nearest location to receive care is about 26 miles (35 minutes) or 35 miles (55 minutes). This would result in the displacement of all Rockingham County citizens, leading to overcrowding of other nearby hospitals. The need for care in the Rockingham area remains the same, but the access to care is completely removed.

As a result of these closures, people are unable to access essential health care. I get particularly upset when hearing about hospital closures in states like Kentucky, Mississippi, and Idaho. Their closures are directly related to their abortion laws, with 11 closures of labor and delivery units since the overturning of Roe v Wade. Healthcare professionals are unwilling to work in states that will have them be penalized for completing sometimes necessary procedures. These women, who may not even be pregnant are unable to receive their gynecological care because there’s nowhere within a reasonable distance for them to go.

In conclusion, if healthcare is seen as a ‘human right’, why is access being limited? The government once gave funding to help these hospitals remain open, but why not now? Limited funding to rural hospitals directly targets poor economical areas. The restricting of abortions directly targets a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body, and the closing of maternity, gynecology, and obstetric units in small hospitals, targets a woman’s right to health care. So, I want you to ask yourself, is healthcare really a human right, especially when the government does what it can to limit it?

2 thoughts on “rural areas need hospitals too

  1. Your post along with our newsroom discussion we had really opened my eyes to see how big of a problem this is becoming. Because I’m not from a rural area at home, I never even considered this. That exact reason why it’s so important to stay up to date and educated on national issues. Also that map showing the closures around the country is very eye-opening!


  2. I love this post! Thank you for educating me more about this. I really enjoyed reading it. I had no idea about the hospital near JMU was for all of Rockingham County that is crazy. It really puts everything into perspective.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s