|Copperhill, Tenn. (Best Places map)|
Of the 78 rural hospitals that have closed since 2010, eight are in Tennessee, second most behind Texas, according to the University of North Carolina. Most have been in states like Tennessee that did not expand Medicaid under federal health reform. STAT graphic showing national rural hospital closures from 2005 to 2016.
Dan Johnson, CEO of Copper Basin, the only critical access hospital in Polk County, said he is confident that local residents, who he said have relied on it in medical emergencies, "will now help their hospital in its time of need," Blau writes. Johnson told Blau, “I’m a positive thinker. There should be health care in this community. There’s a definite need for this hospital.”
The fundraising campaign has exposed rifts in the community, Blau writes. "Some employees are openly urging people not to donate, noting that the hospital recently laid off workers with just three days’ notice." Tracy Rhodes Robinson, a registered nurse who was among those laid off this month, "told Stat she was angry at the hospital’s treatment of employees. Their health insurance was eliminated; some are still owed paychecks and aren’t sure they’ll ever get them."
Another problem is that Copper Basin "isn’t in immediate danger of shutting down, but the hospital has cut staffing from about 130 employees to fewer than 80," Blau writes. "Johnson said he had no choice," telling Blau, "It wouldn’t have been fiscally responsible or morally responsible to have people work without paying them every two weeks. And to raise capital, we need to reduce payroll."