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October 28, 2013

Small Okla. hospitals in danger of closure

NORMAN — A majority of small general hospitals in Oklahoma are losing money, and health care officials warn that some hospitals could close, be sold or cut services.

Federal financial reports for nearly every hospital in the state, obtained by Oklahoma Watch and analyzed and reported with the Tulsa World, show that in each year from 2009 to 2012, between half and three-fourths of general hospitals with fewer than 100 beds lost money. Most are in small cities or rural areas. More than half posted losses in multiple years.

Larger hospitals fared better. In each year during the four-year period, between 7 percent and 19 percent of general hospitals with 100 beds or more lost money.

The financial strains affecting the state’s more than 70 small general hospitals has many administrators on edge about what happens next. One hospital, Pauls Valley General Hospital, declared bankruptcy earlier this year, although it remains open. Rural health experts and officials say more bankruptcies or even closings could occur.

The loss of a hospital in a small community can seriously impede access to health care as well as hurt the local economy, health officials say.

Nationally, the picture isn’t much brighter. Small non-specialty hospitals struggle with declining patients, a slow economy and dramatic

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