Rural Hospitals Teeter On Financial Cliff As COVID-19 Medicare Loans Come Due

David Usherchief financial officer for a 12-bed rural hospital in western Kansas, is sitting on $1.7 million he’s scared to spend.

The money lent from the federal government is meant to help hospitals and other health care providers weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet some hospital administrators have called it a payday loan program that is now brutally due for repayment at a time when the institutions still need help.

Coronavirus cases have “picked up recently and it’s quite worrying,” says Usher, who is the chief financial officer for Edwards County Medical Center in Kinsley, Kan. He would like to use the federal loan money to build a negative-pressure room; such rooms are a common and effective tool for keeping contagious patients apart from those in the rest of the hospital.

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