Community perceptions of rural hospital closure

J Community Health. 1995 Feb;20(1):65-73. doi: 10.1007/BF02260496.


Hospital closure, a devastating event in the life of small communities, can have long-lasting medical, economic, and psychological consequences. This study focuses on a 1991 closure that occurred in the rural North Dakota town of Beach that left local residents 40 and 61 miles away from the nearest hospitals. Two hundred residents of the hospital's former service area were selected via systematic random sampling to share their perceptions on the causes and effects of closing their local hospital. According to respondents, this hospital closure was caused by a number of influences, with the most commonly cited being under-utilization of services by local residents, exacting government rules and regulations, doleful economic climate, dwindling population, poor and unstable local physician care, and poor management of hospital matters. Findings further indicated that Beach area residents were most concerned with poor access to emergency medical care as a result of the closing. Area dwellers perceived that the hospital closure's aftermath would include the loss of local jobs, further declines in the local economy, the suffering of elderly and children, transportation problems, and out-migration of some area residents. These concerns, coupled with the notable decrease in hospital care access, motivated many area residents to think of solutions to these problems rather than to place blame on others for the closure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Child
  • Community-Institutional Relations
  • Female
  • Health Facility Closure*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Hospitals, Rural / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, Rural / supply & distribution*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • North Dakota
  • Public Opinion
  • Sampling Studies
  • Social Perception*