By: Ariel Hart and Greg Bluestein
Terry England, the powerful chairman of Georgia’s House Appropriations Committee, was sitting in his church Sunday morning when he started getting the texts. Tornadoes had just ripped through South Georgia. And victims were headed to an emergency room — one whose closure was announced that same week.
Then relief: A document flashed in England’s memory saying the ER still had 37 days before shutting down.
“Thankfully,” England thought. “Because they’re about to get real busy.”
The Cook County tornado killed seven in one trailer park. Fifteen of the tornado’s other victims went to the Cook Medical Center.
The Valdosta Daily Times
By: Terry Richards
ADEL — Cook County's only emergency room will close at the end of February, another victim of economics threatening small-town hospitals.
Cook Medical Center's ER closes Feb. 28, according to a press release from Tift Regional Medical Center, which will consolidate Cook Medical's emergency services with its own ER in Tift County.
The Cook Family Wellness Center, 103 James St., will offer extended hours and be open seven days a week for minor medical concerns; patients in need of major medical care will be transferred to the nearest emergency room — which means leaving the county.
In season of gift-giving, Georgia is encouraging gifts to rural hospitals.
The reason: a lot of these healing institutions are themselves ailing, financially.
Georgia will soon open a deal to individuals and to corporations: donate money to a qualifying rural hospital and get a state tax credit worth up to 70 percent of the value of the donation.
Doctors, nurses, up-to-date buildings, whizbang imaging machines and emergency rooms cost a lot of money. And not every patient brings in enough cash or insurance to cover costs. Plenty of rural hospitals struggle to break even while serving patients well.
The Georgia Hospital Association emerged from its status as a committee of the Medical Association of Georgia some 85 years ago to help draw attention to rising health care costs, workers comp payments and the rising number of indigent care patients.
“Sound familiar?,” asked GHA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Doug Patten during a presentation to the Rome Seven Hills Rotary Club Tuesday.
Patten told the civic group the average American spends twice as much on healthcare costs as peers in other industrialized nations and global trading partners.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has assembled a task force of business leaders to promote the availability of a tax credit intended to help Georgia’s financially struggling rural hospitals.
“The idea behind this tax credit is really to create a sustainable financial model for rural hospitals across Georgia,” Cagle said at a capitol news conference Tuesday.
“You can’t just simply throw money at it — you’ve got to have real recommendations that are going to impact the bottom line,” he added.
Georgians, like most other Americans, will no doubt welcome any positive and encouraging news on the subject of health care. Two such items deserve attention, and they come from two places from whence good news is not necessarily the first expectation — Washington and Atlanta.
The former is of nationwide impact, and it offers hope for families in desperate need of it.
It’s a short-term version of a bill Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., introduced last year to extend an incentive program for research on treatments and cures for rare childhood diseases. Isakson introduced the Advancing Hope Act, with the co-sponsorship of Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Mark Kirk, R-Ill.
A company performs best when its employees are healthy and are confident they have reliable access to quality health care should they need it. A business’ support of health-care providers in a community is not only good for business; it’s simply the right thing to do.
When a rural hospital fails, as has happened five times in Georgia over the past three years, unemployment rates spike. Local officials can seek to recruit new businesses, but competing for companies is difficult with limited health-care facilities in the area.
Georgia’s rural health care system is in crisis. This is not just a rural problem or a medical problem. It is a problem for all Georgians.
Emanuel Medical Center closed its labor and delivery unit a year ago, as it was no longer financially viable. Now, pregnant women in Swainsboro have to drive at least 30 miles to the next-closest hospital – Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia. If it is a normal birth, that drive may not be a cause for alarm unless you are an anxious parent. If it’s a high-risk pregnancy, this long trip down country roads becomes truly life-threatening for both baby and mother.