Former hospital administrator: 'Few rural hospitals make any mon - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Former hospital administrator: 'Few rural hospitals make any money'

ETMC announced it will not renew two leases and cutback   services at a third hospital. ETMC announced it will not renew two leases and cutback services at a third hospital.
Former Trinity Mother Frances CFO Bill Bellanfant said "Few rural hospitals in East Texas make any money." Former Trinity Mother Frances CFO Bill Bellanfant said "Few rural hospitals in East Texas make any money."
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

Rural hospitals in Texas are the most vulnerable hospitals when it comes to staying open, according to a former East Texas hospital administrator. 

Former Trinity Mother Frances CFO Bill Bellanfant's statement came after the East Texas Medical Center announced it would not renew two leases and cut services at a third rural hospital. ETMC said underused facilities and declining reimbursement rates factored in to their decision.

"Very few rural hospitals in East Texas make any money. they either lose money or they struggle to break even," Bellanfant said.

Bellanfant says one of the reasons why rural hospitals struggle is that they must cover the cost of emergency visits from those using the emergency room for primary care.

"The majority of the visits to an emergency department are not really emergencies but represent many people that don't have access to routine primary care," Bellanfant said.

NET Health CEO George Roberts says people using emergency services for primary care is a drain on the system, but something can be done.

"The main thing is we've got to encourage people to maintain healthy habits they can't afford in this country to continue to do what we want to do when we want to do it and expect the healthcare system to fix us," Roberts said.

ETMC cited reimbursement rates as a reason for cutting back services in Gilmer and not renewing its lease with the affilates in Mount Vernon and Clarksville. Sound Harbor

Financial president Caleb White said procedural reimbursements to hospitals and doctors have declined, and he expects over time those rates will continue to drop.

"In ten to twenty years, what a hospital or clinic or doctor gets paid for a patient that's either part of the Affordable Care Act or Medicare will go down dramatically," White said.

Bellanfant said other challenges facing the industry are that physicians are retiring at a younger age, and many of those entering the field are not choosing primary care.

"Many physicians chose to go into specialties where they could make incomes that were twice as high as family practice doctors," Bellanfant said.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, only 27 percent of hospitals are in non-metropolitan areas.

Bellanfant added even though rural hospitals struggle to make money, they serve an important role in the healthcare industry.

"The reason for keeping them open, you want the care as close to the patients and their families as you can have it," Bellanfant said.

Roberts added, with smaller hospitals closing, he expects to see an influx of patients making the trip to larger cities to receive care.

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