In a new story for The Daily Yonder, writer Andy Miller discusses the impact of the closure of one Georgia town’s local hospital, and the repercussions the rural town has faced ever since.
From the story: “A hospital closure may be felt more in some communities than others. The one in Cuthbert, Whatley said, “is unbelievably impactful.” Not having an emergency room nearby means that each response by an ambulance takes it offline for two to three hours, said Whatley, who is also the chairman of the Randolph County Hospital Authority.
Clifford Hanks, 78, of Cuthbert had to drive to Eufaula’s ER recently when he was experiencing sharp back pain. “The ambulance is too slow and not available,” Hanks said while sitting in a store on the Cuthbert square. The drive, he said, was rough.
Several factors have contributed to the hospital closures nationally, according to the Sheps Center. Struggling rural hospitals treat high numbers of uninsured patients and people with chronic disease, said George Pink, a senior research fellow at the center. “They have a high level of uncompensated care,” Pink said, and not enough patients with private insurance, which reimburses hospitals at higher rates than Medicaid and Medicare do.
The population in rural areas tends to be older as well, which would lead to increased costs of care.
Pink also said that recruiting physicians to rural counties, many of which have shrinking populations, is difficult. And many of the hospitals that have closed were experiencing infrastructure problems as funds for maintaining buildings and equipment declined.
“These hospitals have been losing money for years,” Pink said.”
The community, Cuthbert, Georgia, has been trying to bring health care back since the hospital’s closure in late 2020. With the help of community organizations and their U.S. Senator, they might be able to.
To read the rest of the story on the Yonder, click here.