hospital closure

Photo by: Bram Sable-Smith

There is just one hospital in western Indiana’s Vermillion County. The slender, 37-mile long county is dotted with corn and soybean fields, and driving from one end to the other would take nearly an hour. 

Union Hospital Clinton is small, only 25 beds, but it also serves parts of two neighboring counties. The area suffers from some of Indiana’s highest rates of heart attack and stroke. 

Over the past decade, more than 100 hospitals in rural parts of America — including at least 20 in the Midwest — have closed.

In some cases, the shuttered hospital had been the only one in town, and the ripple effects are enormous, affecting not just access to health care, but also the town’s economy and even identity.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

Lee Ann Stuart still wears her nursing scrubs, even though the only work she’s been doing since Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center closed June 11 is to pack boxes of medical supplies to be hauled away.

“It’s strange walking those halls, and they’re empty and the lights are down,” Stuart says. She’s been a nurse at the hospital in rural Kennett, Missouri, for 22 years.