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Pauls Valley hospital resorts to Go Fund Me to stay open…

10:57 AM EDT on September 19, 2018


I'm not sure this is how things are supposed to work.

Pauls Valley Regional Medical Center made the news this week when the hospital pulled the attention-getting stunt of setting up a Go Fund Me to stay open.The local media, us included, have been more than happy to take the bait, and highlight the struggles of rural hospitals in Oklahoma:


Pauls Valley Regional Medical Center should stay open Tuesday, its CEO said, but it's far from clear that the hospital can last through Wednesday.

Frank Avignone, the hospital's CEO, said Pauls Valley needs $500,000 by the end of the week to pay overdue costs for health benefits. It needs about half of that even faster to make payroll.

“We have to have $243,000 in our bank by this afternoon,” he said when reached at about noon Monday. “If I had to stretch it until (Tuesday) morning, I think the employees would hang with me.”

The hospital won't receive any revenue for its services until it pays off its debts to NewLight Healthcare, a Texas company that managed the hospital from 2013 to early July. Avignone declined to specify how much the hospital owes, because it still is in negotiations, but NewLight claims it exceeds $2.3 million.

A GoFundMe page had raised $2,780 as of Monday afternoon. The Pauls Valley Hospital Authority also is accepting donations by phone at 405-238-5501.

I obviously have no problem with using Go Fund Me to help others in need. We used the service to raise $8,000 for Louis following his stroke, but all publicity stunts aside, this doesn't seem like a very practical or sustainable way to fund rural healthcare in Oklahoma. At least try selling Blue and Gold Sausage or panhandling on a street corner like our educators do.

Of course, there is another way for always-embattled rural hospitals to obtain extra funding:

Rural hospitals were hit particularly hard by cuts to Medicare under the Affordable Care Act, Davis said. Oklahoma could partially make up the difference by expanding Medicaid, but hasn't done that so far, she said.

“We are sending our taxpayer dollars to other states,” she said.

Yep. Pauls Valley, and other rural hospitals in deep red Oklahoma, are struggling (more than usual) because people like Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature chose not to accept federal Medicaid dollars because of (gasp!) Obama. I wonder if this will help poor rural folks understand that voting against your own self-interests has consequences, and can have a lasting, negative effect on things like your basic health and well-being.

We may find out the answer to that question in November. Stitt and Edmondson have totally different thoughts on accepting federal Medicaid dollars, and helping keep rural hospitals open:

Kevin Stitt, a Tulsa businessman, said, “I do not support expanding Medicaid ... Obamacare is a disastrous law that Congress should repeal and replace with a solution that encourages a competitive business climate to drive down cost for all Oklahomans and increase health care options.”...

“Rejecting the Medicaid expansion funds is the worst decision the governor made since taking office,” Democratic candidate Drew Edmondson said. “On my first day as governor, I'll begin the process of reversing that harmful decision.”

I doubt they will, but hopefully voters in rural Oklahoma pay attention to issues like this in November. If not, they better be prepared to donate more money to Go Fund Me.

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