Long-Term Care

Long-Term Care

York General’s Hometown Advantage

How one rural health system is beating the odds and serving seniors

“I think that communities tend to believe that services will always be there if they happen to be there,” Jay Colburn said. “And that simply is no longer the case.” 

Colburn is the vice president of long-term care services at York General Hospital. He and his colleagues are acutely aware of rural Nebraska’s growing senior care deficit. They’re doing everything they can to remain an exception to the trend — and it’s working. 

Over the past 15 years, more than 30 Nebraska nursing homes have shuttered — a majority of closures taking place in rural communities. Between 2008 and 2018, closures resulted in a net loss of 753 beds in rural counties. 

To exacerbate this bad news, rural Nebraskans are aging faster than their urban counterparts. While 12% of urban Nebraskans are over 65, the percentage in rural counties hovers closer to 20%. In remote Hooker County, 37% of residents are 65 or older. 

Closures are largely a result of rural workforce shortages. Two-thirds of Nebraska counties suffer from a shortage of primary care providers. Nine of those counties don’t have a single registered nurse. 

Health care leaders in York are challenging the status quo and making a big impact on local families. York General is one of just a handful of Nebraska hospitals still committed to operating a senior and long-term care facility. In fact, it’s a central tenet of the hospital’s mission. 

York General’s Hearthstone facility offers up to 127 beds for short and long-term senior care, memory support and rehabilitation services. The hospital also supports an assisted living facility, York General Willowbrook. 

York General CEO Jim Ulrich says this array of services is imperative to providing the community with a thorough continuum of care. In many ways, York General offers aging Nebraskans a hometown advantage. Its breadth of services keeps the residents who need them near their families, friends and neighbors. 

“You need a strong community to have strong health care,” Ulrich said. “But you also need strong health care to have a strong community.” 


Leys, T. (2023, September 14). Rural nursing home operators say new staff rules would cause more closures. NPR. Retrieved November 19, 2023. 
Smith, C. (2018). (rep.). Rural Nebraska’s Shifting Long-term Care System (pp. 1–9). Lyons, NE: Center for Rural Affairs. Retrieved November 19, 2023.