Study shows three NC hospitals at high financial risk of distress

MARTIN COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – Several hospitals here in North Carolina are at a high risk of financial distress, according to a new study released by the NC Rural Health Research Program.

Rural health care has been a concern for a while. However, during the pandemic, hospitals received extra funding.

“In 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, which provided billions and billions of dollars to rural and urban hospitals. As a result, the number of rural hospitals that closed dropped from 18 in 2020 to 2 in 2021,” said George Pink, a Deputy Director for the NC Rural Health Research Program.

But that financial backing is starting to fade.

“Many people in the rural healthcare community are concerned we are returning to the pre-COVID era in terms of the kinds of financial challenges that rural hospitals are facing,” said Pink.

Now, there is some fear that other rural North Carolina hospitals may close after a report was released from the NC Rural Health Research Program identifying three hospitals at high risk of financial distress.

The study used data from 2023 and did not name the hospitals. However, the risk of closure is a reality Martin County residents know far too well.

“It’s really sad because we have elderly here in Martin County that don’t have transportation and don’t have a way to get to Pitt County, Bertie County,” said Linda Gibson, a Williamston resident.

Some feel healthcare has gone downhill since Martin General closed.

“They’re making like 20 trips a day almost to Bertie. That’s how many people are getting sick right now,” said Marie Perry, a Martin County resident.

However, others have not lost hope while still working to bring their hospital back to life.

“Let’s work together. Let’s come up with a solution. Let’s get with the ones that are in authority,” said Gibson.

They say the hospital closure has caused a ripple effect.

“I was born and raised here. It used to be one of the best counties, and now people don’t even want to stay here. Give them something to stay here for; give them a reason to come here and live,” said Perry.

Marie and Linda are also working on organizing a day of prayer in downtown Williamson to pray for their hospital to open again in Martin County. They plan to hold it next month.

While there were only three hospitals in the high-risk range of the study, there were at least 48 hospitals that showed some sort of risk here in North Carolina.