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Boonville closing highlights rural hospital challenges

Pinnacle Regional Hospital
Pinnacle Regional Hospital closes its doors.


The frequency at which rural hospitals are closing across the United States has accelerated in recent years.

Boonville will now feel the impacts of that trend as Pinnacle Regional Hospital closes its doors Wednesday night.

According to a statement on the hospital's Facebook page staff will stay at the emergency department for two weeks to help with any walk-in patients.

According to a rural report from the American Hospital Association, as of December 2018, 95 rural hospitals had closed their doors since 2010. Closures have increased, with more than twice the number of hospitals closing between 2013 and 2017 than in the previous five years, the report says.

The reasons behind the closings are multiple, including population, health care delivery and workforce shortages.

In the same Facebook statement, the hospital said that after speaking with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, hospital leaders determined bringing the facility into compliance with regulations would be too costly.

The American Hospital Association lists increased regulatory burden as one of the reasons rural hospitals struggle to survive. According to the association, lower patient volumes often make rural hospitals' cost of compliance more expensive.

Some research also suggests Medicaid expansion may also impact rural hospitals. Approximately 80 percent of rural hospital closures since 2014 have occurred in states that have not expanded Medicaid.

Missouri is one of 14 states that has not expanded the coverage.

State Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, noted that Gov. Mike Parson spoke about Medicaid expansion Wednesday during his State of the State speech.

State Rep. Dave Muntzel, R-Boonville, said he believes Medicaid expansion is important, but finding the money for it may be difficult and could require funds being moved from other areas.

"I think it's very very important but it all gets back to where do the dollars come from," he said.

He said it could require biting the bullet and raising taxes if officials are not willing to pull money from other areas such as education.

Mike Conway is the former chairman of the board of trustees for Cooper County Memorial Hospital. The board sold the hospital to Rural Health Group-Consolidated, which then sold it to Pinnacle Health Care System.

He said the hospital's closure could have a negative impact on the community as a whole.

"It means for people that have an emergency we do not have an emergency room, so the closest emergency room is going to be Columbia. That can be the difference between life and death at times," Conway said.

He said having resources such as a hospital closeby is part of quality health care, and the closure would probably have the most impact on the senior population.

Conway also said the hospital influenced economic development in the area.

"There are a lot of quality jobs that are associated with a hospital. People that got a good paycheck and that lived in the community," Conway said.

Pinnacle Regional Hospital is now requesting a 90-day suspension of its license in case another company is interested in buying the facility. Conway said he hopes this happens in some capacity.

"It may be at a level less than what we've had in the past, which is an in-patient hospital with an emergency room with out-patient clinics," he said.

Article Topic Follows: Boonville
Mike Conway
pinnacle regional hospital

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Sydney Olsen

Sydney Olsen reports in the evenings during the week and on the weekend.


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