COVID-19 relief was meant to give a lifeline to hospitals, especially the small, rural facilities that struggled to stay open before 2020. But in states like Oklahoma, problems created by confusing guidelines could cause harm long after the pandemic.
Mabel Garcia went to the only emergency room in Texas County, Oklahoma, which didn’t have a drug for heart attacks and strokes. She was airlifted to a larger hospital that gave her the drug she needed, but it was too late. She suffered brain damage.
At least 13 hospitals in Oklahoma have closed or experienced added financial distress under the management of private companies. Some companies charged hefty management fees, promising to infuse millions of dollars that never materialized.
Rural Oklahoma communities are desperate to protect their vulnerable hospitals and hand the reins to management companies that say they’re turnaround experts. Instead some companies failed the hospitals, bled them dry and expedited their demise.
Eight nurses are the overwhelming majority of employees who remain at Haskell County Community Hospital in Oklahoma. The future of the 25-bed hospital, which has been whittled down to operating only an emergency room since 2019, is increasingly grim.