Hospital Closings: It’s Not Just A Rural Georgia Problem

July 30, 2014 20:19 pm

by Charlie · 4 comments

The healthcare crisis continues to demonstrate it’s continued existance on the supply side.  While we’ve covered the issues of Georgia’s critical access hospitals here regularly, they’re not the only hospitals having issues.  Frankly, all medical suppliers are, at all levels.  This evening, the Marietta Daily Journal brings word that Emory Adventist Hospital in Smyrna will be closing.

After extensive study and exploration of other alternatives, Adventist Health System and Emory Healthcare have decided to close Emory-Adventist Hospital at 3949 South Cobb Drive in Smyrna. The decision was approved by the EAH Board on Monday. The hospital will now begin a transition process toward closure by Oct. 31.

“Along with the dedicated physicians and employees of Emory-Adventist, we have worked hard over the years to make the hospital successful in its mission to serve the Smyrna area community,” said Pete Weber, EAH board chair, speaking for the partnership of AHS and EH. “EAH has earned a well-deserved reputation for high quality, compassionate care. Ultimately, however, the new market conditions in health care have made it impossible for EAH to continue operation.”

EAH has faced financial challenges over many years in this evolving health care environment, Weber explained. Even though EAH has been able to decrease costs, the hospital has had difficulty attracting enough patients in this highly competitive market to be financially sustainable.

Weber also said multiple options were explored to avoid closing the hospital. Since the spring of 2013, AHS and EH have talked with a number of other health care providers to discuss possible partnerships. While there was interest, those talks did not lead to an agreement.

That last paragraph is significant, as it describes the main focal point of solution common to inner city, suburban, and rural facilities.  As I continue to learn about the health care delivery system and the providers’ challenges, most point to a time when the facilities serving rural areas and low income urban/suburban areas could partner with larger institutions in more lucrative areas.  As most efforts to “bend the cost curve” have really been to cut reimbursements, there’s less and less available from the “profitable” institutions to share with those serving the have nots.

Now the “haves” have less.  A lot less.  So they’re ability to support the “have not” hospitals is greatly diminished.

On these pages and others, the debate is always about the demand side.  “Access” to health care.  Which is really “access to insurance”.  Access to insurance doesn’t get you healthy if there’s no hospital or no doctor nearby when you need them.

Luckily for those in the Smyrna area, they have South Cobb Hospital in Austell and Kennestone Wellstar in Marietta to the North.   Less than ideal, but closer than many in rural Georgia have when their facilities close.

ryanhawk July 30, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Access to a hospital or doctor wont get you healthy either if providers have an incentive to perform expensive treatments whether you need them or not. It will however drive us individually, corporately, and collectively into bankruptcy.

Cutting reimbursement and rationing care is the only way to have both government financed healthcare and a balanced budget. And since the overwhelming majority support govt. intervention in health markets — including tea party conservatives who don’t want “our” hands on “their” Medicare — this is exactly where we are headed over the next two decades.

South Fulton Guy July 30, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Yes this is rapidly an all too familiar patter as SW Fulton lost Southwest Atlanta Hospital in 2009 and has no nearby alternatives: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/southwest-atlanta-hospital-closes-doors/nD975/

Even in Atlanta where in some areas there continue to be an abundance of alternative hospitals, there are pockets of even metro Atlanta where a closing and the additional minutes it takes are life and death for some patients.

I can only imagine what it is like to like in underserved rural areas too…

Chris Huttman July 31, 2014 at 10:53 am

I wonder if the 2008 CON reforms played a part in this hospital’s closure at all?

saltycracker July 31, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Reads like EAH an 88 bed, church affiliated, non-profit hospital just didn’t fit the business model for Emory as they adapt to the new order.

Don’t know about the “profitable” walking on the have nots as the non-profit Adventist Health System (big in places like Central Florida) has the resources but might have chosen to avoid getting between the big guns fighting over the metro with only an 88 caliber gun and squeezed staff.

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