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The U.S. Has Eliminated Thousands of Hospital Beds in the Last Ten Years, Exacerbating the Current COVID-19 Crisis

Hahnemann Hospital rally


Ben Palmquist,
Tammy Rojas, /

Philadelphia, PA, April 13, 2020 — Amidst the COVID-19 crisis facing the U.S. healthcare system, the U.S. is projected to have a shortfall of over a million hospital beds over the next six months. A spate of research compiled for the first time reveals that this crisis was intensified by a for-profit system that has seen rapid closures of hospitals, especially in rural areas and urban communities of color.

“Healthcare profiteers have been closing hospitals right and left,” said Karim Nathan with Put People First! PA, a grassroots organization whose members live in cities, towns and rural areas in 17 counties across Pennsylvania. “More than 11 million in the U.S. live in counties with no hospitals at all. Public officials need to take responsibility and make sure our hospital system meets our communities’ medical needs. Closing hospitals because they don’t produce profits is wrong, and puts us all at risk.”

Forty-six U.S. hospitals were closed last year, plus at least 12 more in just the first three months of 2020, as COVID-19 was beginning its journey across the globe, according to research reviewed by Partners for Dignity & Rights, a human rights organization based in New York City. At least 430 hospitals are currently at risk of closure in rural areas alone. These closures have disproportionately affected states that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Closures have also disproportionately affected communities of color. One study found that every 10% increase in the Black population of a county, there has been a 41% increased likelihood of an emergency department closing.

Partners for Dignity & Rights praised the work of organizations like Put People First! PA that have been fighting for healthcare to be treated as a human right since before the current crisis. “COVID-19 has shown clearly that public officials have abdicated too much responsibility to markets and deficit hawks,” said Ben Palmquist, Health Care and Economic Democracy Program Director of Partners for Dignity & Rights. “The whole purpose of having a health care system is to deliver care to people who need it, not to make money. Hospital openings and closings and governance should be guided by community health needs, not profitability.”

Put People First! PA have called for a halt on closures across Pennsylvania, and are calling for all closed hospitals to be re-opened, including Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia. “We cannot allow this for-profit healthcare system to hold all of us hostage,” said Farrah Samuels. “We are calling on the mayor and governor to take emergency measures and seize Hahnemann from Joel Freedman–the real estate developer who bought the hospital to shut it down and flip it for a profit–and operate it as a public hospital immediately.”


For more statistics on the current healthcare crisis, see our fact sheet. See more about Put People First! PA at