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Critical Access Hospitals Crisis in GA a National Bellwether

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, February 19, 2014

We have a large part of Georgia from Macon to Augusta where there are basically no OB deliveries. We've got 32-of-33 critical access hospitals that no longer deliver babies. We've got 12 to 14 of the next larger hospitals that no longer delivery babies. We have about 45–47 hospitals in Georgia that no longer deliver babies. We are seeing a significant reduction in services and access and that creates a situation of higher acuity patients when they do show and it's going to cost the governments supporting it a lot more money.

HLM: Has Georgia's decision to forego Medicaid expansion money been a factor in these closings?

Lewis: Our hospitals have been in trouble as a result of what has happened since 1999. That is what got us into the trouble. The issue of Medicaid expansion is how much money and how quickly would it come in and help those hospitals. Unfortunately, we may be in a situation where we are going to lose hospitals because of the last 10 years. That Medicaid expansion money, although it would be helpful, may not [have been there] in time.

HLM: Oconee had about 100 employees. What happens when those jobs leave the region?

Lewis: They clearly are the best jobs in the community and because most of those are higher paying healthcare jobs, they have to go if they can to the next-closest facility to try to get jobs there. And that is usually a 30-plus mile trip to get employment. People on the lesser-skilled side of that situation just go into unemployment. In Glenwood, I think the unemployment was over 15%. They just go into the unemployment rolls.

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