Number of Public Hospitals Has Decreased in Large Suburban Areas, Study Finds
The number of public hospitals in large metropolitan areas declined between 1996 and 2002, according to a study by the State University of New York's Downstate Medical Center, the Washington Times reports. The study -- led by Dennis Andrulis, associate dean for research at Drexel University -- analyzed data from the nation's 100 largest cities and their suburbs collected by federal agencies and surveys conducted by the American Hospital Association.
According to the study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the number of public hospitals in major cities declined by 16% from 83 to 70 during the study period, while the number of public hospitals in suburban areas declined by 27% from 134 to 98 (Higgins, Washington Times, 8/17). The study found that the number of for-profit hospitals declined by 11% in both cities and suburbs and that the number of not-for-profit hospitals declined by 11% in cities and 2% in suburbs (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation release, 8/17).
As a result, "there is a major increase" in emergency department visits by low-income residents in suburban areas, Andrulis said. The study found that low-income patients accounted for about 10.5 million visits to 839 suburban hospitals in 2002, the Times reports. The study did not address the reasons for the decrease in the number of public hospitals, but Andrulis said researchers "did get the general sense that they were ... shutting down, facing a major downsizing in operations or being consolidated."
Mark Wietecha, chair of the health care consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates, said, "The growth in uninsured people is far quicker than the money available for the public hospitals to care for them."
The study is the fifth in a series the center has conducted on hospitals in large cities and suburbs (Washington Times, 8/17).
The report is available online. Note: you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.