Fulton Medical Center, in Fulton, Missouri will be shuttering its doors no later than September 22, a move that will leave the county, which has a population of about 45,000, without any hospital. The closure of the 37-bed hospital will impact 158 employees.
“After careful consideration and in light of the challenges facing rural hospitals in today’s healthcare environment, we have made the difficult decision to close Fulton Medical Center, no later than September 22th, 2017,” said Chief Executive Officer Mike Powell.
Some of the reasons cited for the closing were a low patient count, extensive repairs, and being denied permission to build a new 10-bed facility in Columbia, causing the loss of additional revenue.
Fulton Medical Center was purchased in 2014 by NueHealth for $6.0 million and a 65% stake in the hospital. The University of Missouri Health Care paid $1.5 million in cash and provided a loan guarantee for $2.75 million for a 35% interest.
In mid-July, MU Health told NueHealth it was going to sell its interest in the hospital. Financial records released by the University of Missouri Health Care show that Fulton Medical Center had been losing millions of dollars over the past several years and had incurred nearly $12.5 million in uncompensated care since 2015.
Fulton Medical Center absorbs the costs of indigent care when patients cannot afford their medical bills and have incomes low enough to fall under hospitals’ policies for free care.
In 2015, Fulton’s indigent care costs were $340,000; by 2016, those costs had soared to $837,000. As of May 2017, indigent care costs are nearly $95,000.
Those figures pale in comparison to Fulton Medical Center’s bad debt. Hospitals incur bad debt when patients who make too much money to qualify for indigent care either cannot afford their medical bills or simply don’t pay them.
In 2015, total bad debt was approximately $5.0 million, and more than $4.0 million in 2016. In the first five months of 2017, total bad debt was more than $2.0 million.
Between January 2015 and May 2017, Fulton Medical Center lost money every month, with the exception of November and December 2015 and October 2016. Losses in 2015 and 2016 combined were more than $5.4 million. From January to May this year, losses totaled more than $1.0 million.
Fulton Medical Center is located in Callaway County, where 17% of the adults under 65 (4,425) are uninsured. Moreover, seven percent (681) of the children in Callaway Country are also uninsured.
Cost variances were also cited for the hospitals financial woes. Surgeries at the hospital have not come in as expected. In 2016, six surgeries were performed based on a budget of 36 surgeries.
At the end of May, the hospital was also short $442,000 from its expected budget shared between the X-ray, emergency room, and CT scan departments.
“Fulton Medical Center to close by Sept. 22,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 24, 2017.
“Records show Fulton Medical Center losing millions of dollars,” Columbia Daily Tribune, July 19, 2017.