(AP) — A second rural Georgia hospital has announced its closure, citing financial losses.
Northridge Medical Center in Commerce announced this week that it will close on Oct. 31.
Spokesperson Amy Abel told WDUN-AM that as many as 78 employees could be laid off as the 90-bed hospital in northeast Georgia closes. However, Abel said that Ethica Health & Retirement Communities was trying to place as many people as possible in the adjoining 167-bed nursing home.
George Hunt with Ethica Health & Retirement Communities told Georgia Health News that the hospital has lost $5 million each year over the past three years; the company predicts a $4 million loss this year. Ethica purchased Northridge in 2014.
Abel said demand for services at the hospital has been on the decline in the past year, even with COVID-19 activity. She confirmed the hospital has not offered surgical services since 2018, and there were no inpatients at the hospital on Thursday.
"We are confident the closure of NMC will not have an adverse impact on patients' access to acute care, as there are numerous resources in the area, offering a wide variety of acute care and services," Abel said. Many patients in Commerce go to Athens or Gainesville or Gwinnett County.
Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center in Cuthbert announced in July that it would close Oct. 22. The Randolph County Hospital Authority, which owns that hospital, said the hospital was running out of money and would be unable to make payroll if it continued to operate. The authority had sought to borrow $10 million for renovations, but couldn't secure the money.
Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center has been managed by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital since 1996. The Albany-based health system says it's trying to offer jobs elsewhere to as many of the hospital's 50 workers as possible.
One of the state's top health care lobbyists is predicting that numerous rural hospitals may soon be forced to close as the pandemic continues to take a toll on the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Georgia.
"We're in unprecedented times, and it's putting a lot of stress on our hospitals,'' said Monty Veazey, president of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. "We could have as many as a dozen (hospitals) close in the next few months."
At least seven other rural hospitals have closed in Georgia since 2008, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.