Leadville hospital struggles to cover payroll amid financial troubles

A small Leadville hospital founded in 1879 is facing tough financial challenges, like many small rural medical facilities. St. Vincent Health came within 24 hours of not being able to pay staff. Last minute financial help, including from the state, helped it avoid that.

In a special meeting with Lake County Wednesday night, hospital leadership said they may not have the funds to cover employee payroll this week. 

Leaders were working with the hospital district board to find short and long-term financial solutions. 

By Thursday evening, St. Vincent had obtained the necessary money. 

“This afternoon, St. Vincent Health secured additional funding and support from multiple sources that will enable the hospital to make payroll tomorrow and to continue focusing on our work for both the short and long term,” according to the statement sent by Kathryn Fry, the Chief Operations Officer.

“This funding provides us an opportunity to continue caring for our patients while we work on sustainable solutions to our current financial difficulties,” she said, adding the hospital is unable to grant interviews at this time.

But the close call underscored a trend. 

Rural hospitals in the U.S. face a host of major challenges, including staffing and low reimbursement rates. The pandemic has added to the financial woes. In the last decade, more than 100 rural hospitals in the U.S. have closed.

The state’s Department of Health Care Policy & Financing advanced supplemental payments to St. Vincent Health of more than $1 million, said public information officer Marc Williams in an email.

As recently as Tuesday night, the agency approved another advance payment of about $177,000 which should hit their bank account Friday morning, he said.

According to its website, St. Vincent Health has eight inpatient/acute care beds, which also serve as swing beds and respite care “to meet the needs of our residents and visitors to Lake County.”

Last year, the facility employed approximately 75 full-time staff, according to the Colorado Hospital Association.