Struggling Braddock Loses Hospital, Economic Driver : Planet Money The steel town of Braddock, Pa., has been trying to recover from decades of layoffs and population loss. Now its lone hospital is closing.
NPR logo Struggling Braddock Loses Hospital, Economic Driver

Struggling Braddock Loses Hospital, Economic Driver

The city of Braddock, Pa., ranks among America's most difficult places, alongside emblems of decline and depopulation like Detroit and Flint, Mich. People in Braddock, a steel center outside Pittsburgh, have been trying awfully hard to bring about a revival. Their famous mountain of a mayor, John Fetterman, describes some of the efforts at community farming and urban homesteading in the video above.

Now Braddock is sustaining another blow. Its hospital, a branch of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, has announced that it will close as of Jan. 31, 2010. At a meeting yesterday, hospital officials told distraught and angry residents that the patient load had dropped by 20 percent since the 2007 opening. UPMC Braddock has been on pace to lose $50 million over the next several years. The hospital says four oneout five residents already seek health care elsewhere, and now the others can use one of the UPMC satellites within a five-mile radius.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, people in Braddock say they're losing the only ATM in town and, in the hospital's cafeteria, what amounts to their only sit-down restaurant. In fact, they may be giving up more than that. The hospital had become something of an economic engine in the town, employing 670 people. The state had awarded it $3 million for renovations, which the hospital now says it won't spend. In an economy like Braddock's, that kind of money really counts.

Braddock is an extreme case, but it's hardly alone in benefiting from the presence of a medical center. Nationwide, health care spending takes up something like 17 percent of the overall economy. The Iowa Hospital Association calculates that every hospital job there creates another two jobs elsewhere in the state's economy. The Cincinnati Children's Hospital estimates that for every dollar it spends leads to another $1.25 in economic value.

(Thanks to @saalon for the tip.)