A rural community hospital hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic has closed after more than 70 years in southwestern Georgia.
WALB-TV reported that residents and workers gathered in Cuthbert for a ceremony to say goodbye to Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center, which had operated in Randolph County since 1947 and closed on Thursday.
"They have been very loyal to this institution and by no fault of their own, they have been impacted by COVID and the change in medical services," said Mayor Steve Whatley.
Financial problems at the hospital were worsened by the pandemic, which forced many patients to delay or cancel elective procedures. Workers wearing face masks stood outside the hospital as a speaker talked about the shutdown.
Dr. A. S. Ghiathi, director of emergency medicine at the hospital, said the loss of the facility was difficult to grasp.
"This hospital has been a lifeline to the community. I think for the most part people still don't realize what they have lost. I think the vacuum that is going to be created from the standpoint of, number one, the jobs that have created, and number two, the amount of money people spend here, and tax creation for the county. All of that is going to be felt." said Ghiathi.
The Rural Health Research Program at the University of North Carolina said the medical center was the 16th rural hospital to close nationally this year. The closest hospital to Cuthbert is more than 20 miles away.
Plans to continue emergency care in the rural county could be announced as soon as next week.