Rural Hospital Closures Leave Residents with Few Options: 'It's a Fight Every Day'

Guidehouse, ABC News

Meachael Goney worked at the Jamestown Regional Medical Center in rural Tennessee for 46 years, but that wasn't long enough to guarantee her job security. 

"They just called us up to get our checks ... and said they were having a cutback," Goney told ABC News, having just been laid off from the hospital that was in the midst of deep financial troubles

In May, the federal government stopped sending the hospital reimbursements for treating patients on Medicare and Medicaid. In an attempt to turn the hospital's prospects around, a new CEO, Michael Alexander, was named. Not long after ABC News' Steve Osunsami visited the center for "This Week's" Critical Care healthcare series, a note was posted on its doors saying they were temporarily closed. 

The county was left without a hospital. The next two closest hospitals are between 45 minutes and an hour-long drive away.

Across Tennessee alone, a dozen rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and, according to an analysis by The Tennessean newspaper, more than a dozen others are at serious risk of going under. But it's not just a problem for Tennessee. In the last decade, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed across the country, according to the University of North Carolina's Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. And an analysis by the management consultancy firm Guidehouse found that 21% of rural hospital in the United States are in danger of closing, too, if their finances don't improve. 

Rural hospitals face a variety of challenges. They tend to serve aging communities that suffer from poor health and require expensive treatments. There are often severe doctor shortages in rural areas, and gaps in insurance coverage if patients have insurance at all. And, several studies show that rural hospitals are closing at a faster rate in states that chose not to expand Medicaid coverage to poor residents under Obamacare. 

Tennessee is one of those states, and the residents of Jamestown and its neighboring communities fear losing their hospital could cost lives. 

Read Full Article: Rural hospital closures leave residents with few options

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