I hope that you all are regularly reading the Journal Sentinel if not, you may have missed that a month ago they had great analysis teaming up with the Pittsburg Post-Gazette for a story by Lillian Thomas entitled “Hospitals, doctors moving out of poor city neighborhoods to more affluent areas.” Jaclyn Cosgrove (follow her!), who does some killer reporting out in Oklahoma, directed me to the Oklahoma City breakdown of metro regions that the Journal did.
What’s going on in Oklahoma City? The blue dots indicate hospitals that have recently opened and they are clearly primarily located in higher income neighborhoods. Red dots indicate the hospitals that have closed. The darker orange shows a higher percent of the population below the poverty level. Play around with the tool yourself here.
Playing around with the map feature a bit Oklahoma City is one of the clearer examples of cities that are closing hospitals specifically in poorer neighborhoods. Hospital consolidation has been a concern for decades but where this consolidation is occurring and how it impacts access could be more troubling. Recent research by Alan Sager at Boston University also suggests that the hospitals closing are more efficient than the ones remaining open.
So, what is causing the closures? Most closures are attributed to financial strain. It makes sense that those serving low-income areas would see lower payments and high uncompensated care. As hospital systems continue to grow in the hospital landscape financing mechanisms with DSH payments and other financial incentives for hospitals serving low-income populations should ensure these hospitals stay open.