A 25-bed critical-access hospital in rural southeast Georgia
has closed and laid off
some of its 100 workers, the Albany Herald
reported Feb. 15. It's the fourth rural hospital to close in Georgia in the past two years.
Citing financial problems, officials at Lower Oconee Community Hospital said they are considering a restructuring that would allow the facility to remain open as urgent-care center to serve residents in Glenwood and surrounding Wheeler County.
“This restructuring is being done to provide sustainable medical services in the Glenwood area,” CEO Karen O'Neal told an Atlanta television station.
Georgia is among the states refusing to expand Medicaid
under the Affordable Care Act
. The paper reported that 23% of Wheeler County residents are uninsured, 10% of its citizens are unemployed and 41% of its children live in poverty.
“If we don't come up with an emergency remedy for rural hospitals, we could see the closure of a significant additional number,” Jimmy Lewis of HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals in Georgia, said in the news report. "If left unattended, will create a Third World nation'' system of medical care in these areas of Georgia.
The Georgia Legislature is considering proposals to relax the state's certificate-of-need
rules on establishing rural medical facilities. The less restrictive rules would allow the creation of a standalone emergency department if a rural hospital closes, the paper reported.