Rural Hospitals Closing… No Big Deal.

January 21, 2014 11:00 am

by Scarlet Hawk · 8 comments

 

And they say women are too soft for politics!  Chair Sharon Cooper of Marietta removes all doubt of that today in her comments to Galloway in response to Medicaid expansion.  She suggests rural hospitals may need to close due to the fact that in certain Georgia communities these hospitals may not be self-sustaining.

Galloway offers the glaring challenge to her assertions, “But the problem is more circular in south Georgia: The region is losing population because there are no jobs. There are no jobs because companies are unwilling to relocate. Companies are unwilling to relocate because of a lack of health care.”

I’d say it was circular just outside the perimeter, y’all.  You don’t even have to drive down 75.  Come on down the Atlanta Highway and you will find that Walton County has a new hospital.  It is a major economic driver and employer in the area.  It provides essential care and jobs to the community that would otherwise have to drive to Athens Regional.

Although I don’t live there any longer, it is nice to know that other kids growing up with type 1 diabetes will not have to drive all the way to Athens for urgent care like my parents took me.  Those minutes are life-saving and the proximity of a community hospital being closer is an undeniable comfort to families in emergency situations.

I think this speaks to a larger problem in Georgia, though.

We just do not care.

For whatever reason, we don’t seem to care here about other people.  We would rather see them essentially die on the side of the road rather than pay $10 for a trauma center.  For a state that in some ways prides itself on having strong values and faith, what grace have we been willing to show to our friends in central and south Georgia? I’m not making an argument for Medicaid, for the ACA, or for government sponsored anything.  I am asking what this says about us when we are asked to open our wallets and pay for something with no personal ROI?

And don’t think that OTP folks want any help from Atlantans (monetary or otherwise) – we have prided ourselves on standing on our own, having unique stories, cultures and communities diverse and rich in each small to medium sized town.  There is a pride in GOOA that is undeniably beautiful for its strength and independence.

But allocating state funds to care for folks in outer-lying areas is not a hand out IMHO.  That’s an investment in rural communities and rural people.  Is GOOA not worth that investment?  I’d kindly ask the chair lady to come visit when she has time.  These rural hospitals are worth  her time and the investment of Georgia.

“It is a rare privilege, sir, to have had part, however humble, in this work. Never was nobler duty confided to human hands than the uplifting and upbuilding of the prostrate and bleeding South, misguided perhaps, but beautiful in her suffering, and honest, brave and generous always.” –Henry Grady, “The New South”

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

2g Strategies (@2gstrategies) January 21, 2014 at 11:45 am

From @peachpundit Rural Hospitals Closing No Big Deal. – And they say women are too soft for politics!  Chair S… http://t.co/SbVcI6Sjrq

Ghost of William F. Buckley January 21, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I take exception to the assertion that Georgians just do not care.

To my thinking, most people are either well versed on public affairs, or afflicted with ignorance or stupidity. Unfortunately, the latter is impossible to resolve, while ignorance is often reversed through credible awareness advocacy. Advocacy gets muddy when sound policy is replaced with political agenda’s.

We will see more and more awareness campaigns showing compelling stories of what Medicaid expansion means to chronically ill citizens of limited means. Sadly, for some simply having cost free Depends is a huge quality of life issue. Hard to imagine that incontinence products are not available to those who need them and cannot afford them.

I support Gov. Deal and his effort to find solutions for chronically ill that do not include expanding Medicaid, a massively challenged program.

The trauma care issue is being addressed right now – Without a blanket tax.

We all care, Ms. Hawk. What we do not care about is another Fed program offering limited assistance with exorbitant overhead.

Scarlet Hawk January 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I’m grateful that you take exception to my assertion. I hope it makes people angry. Thank you for caring and for taking the time to read and to comment.

We can agree to disagree on this issue, but I hope that my post gets me back a list of why I’m wrong rather than discourteous comments. I would love to see more of what Georgians are doing around the state to help one another rather than hear about advocating for community hospital closings.

I don’t think government programs are the answer, but I also don’t see why we should disregard the essential component of healthcare in more rural communities. I personally do not weigh everything in dollars and cents (as I’m sure neither you nor Chairman Cooper does either, btw) because compassion has a place in policy decisions.

Thank you again for taking the time to read and comment. I feel very strongly about rural healthcare and I intended the post to be somewhat evocative.

Doctor Strangelove January 21, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Thank you for this post. I couldn’t agree more.

Sharon Cooper’s comments are misguided at best, and heartless at worst. Georgia already has a serious problem with its rural health service provisions, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to see the system improve.

It must be nice sitting pretty in Cobb County, knowing that she can get to a hospital in mere minutes. Not every Georgian has that luxury- and she wants to allow for that luxury to diminish even further.

Ghost of William F. Buckley January 21, 2014 at 3:47 pm

One needs only to look at the many illness support groups to find evidence of who is involved with what effort here in Georgia. Governor Deal was deeply involved with healthcare reform and worked on a few Bills that could have easily resolved certain issues for more elegantly than PPACA.

It seems my lack of clarity may have you thinking that I inferred any lack of courtesy. Not the case at all. This is afterall, PeachPundit where a thick skin and buying Charlie a brew go hand in hand.

My experiences show me that the subject of healthcare is toxic under the Gold Dome. Has been that way since PPACA passed. Healthcare reimbursement, biologic therapy, chronic versus acute care, etc. topics are so complex that any laypersons’ working knowledge is limited to sound bites.

Dr. Cooper is quite knowledgeable on these subjects, and many more, and her point that the hospitals should be self-supporting makes some sense. Slightly off topic, Grady is a perfect example of why that point is not absolute – Government should subsidize certain hospitals. Grady is a tertiary care facility, which means that is where doctors learn how to practice their art, as well as a full-on hospital. Therefore, it cannot be 100% self supporting. Each County that sends patients to Grady, should pay into the Grady expense pool, BTW…but I digress.

Check out how Georgia leads the Nation in delivering high quality healthcare to rural populations here: http://www.gatelehealth.org

Jackster January 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm

When hospitals close, like a mine, so go communities.

The ACA wasn’t written with rural america in mind.

I think most people don’t honestly care about communities they don’t live in. Or want to drive hours upon hours to go visit these places.

For that reason alone, medicine and hospitals would become a basic service. While how to pay for these services is always up for debate, the need to provide them is not.

I support hospital management chains standardizing this care – often enough, these hospitals go under due to poor management than because of a lack of patient volume. They were already running skinny.

Ellynn January 21, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Hospital management chains are for profit. They have boards that answer to stock holders who want to see shares go up and even a nice dividend check before the end of the year. Doesn’t matter if they fail due to lack of funds, lack of patients or lack of management -, when they are not making a profit or being subtained by an outside force and tax credits to break even so they don’t eat into the profits of other sites, they are closed.

You don’t need fancy high end tramas in every city in georgia, but you do need a place that handles emergancy care that is less then 30 miles from where you are for things like snake bits, heart attacks, basic emergancy stablization for transport to a reginal or level 1 trama, the child running a 104 fever at 2:00 a.m., the car accident in the middle of no where on I-16 (for when the ISP people travel down to their beach house on the coast of course).

saltycracker January 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm

The casual conversations I’ve had with rural hospital administrators don’t indicate a lack of caring by outsiders or mismanagement on their part. It does reflect a small operation under siege by overwhelming requirements, limited options and abusers of their services by patients and those that profit by assisting the looting of the rural healthcare. There will never be enough money with the systemic issues of many of the rural hospitals. Got to believe some smart folks can sort it out if we really want to, but a lot of laws/regulations would have to change.