Monday, July 11, 2016

Rural Tennessee town lost its hospital when big national chain didn't want to fix it up

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A good example of the negative effects of a rural hospital closing can be seen in Selmer, Tenn., where unease has settled among the town's 4,500 residents since the town's only hospital closed in May, Dave Boucher reports for The Tennessean: "A slew of other rural community hospitals in Tennessee and across the country are facing the same problems that are outweighing financial benefits for the larger companies that own the facilities."

Since 2010 annual admissions to the hospital declined from about 1,700 to 550, Miranda Faris reported in March for The Jackson Sun. Local officials said the 45-bed hospital needed extensive repairs that would require it to close for six months, and opted to close permanently rather than make the repairs. Tennessee is one of the states that has not expanded Medicaid under federal health reform, a move that generally helps rural hospitals.

"Selmer and McNairy County are in the minority when it comes to rural communities losing hospitals, in that no immediate replacement or second option is open," Boucher writes. "Although at least eight rural Tennessee hospitals have closed or merged since 2013, five have been replaced by other satellite campuses of health systems or other clinics trying to fill the community's health-services niche."

Selmer's situation means that local residents like Richard Prindes, who suffers from several chronic ailments, now has to catch a ride with his brother 20 miles to Savannah when he needs emergency services, Boucher writes. On a recent trip the ER wait was six hours. Community Health Services, which owns the shuttered hospital through its Tennova subsidiary, "is still operating the county's emergency medical services, and the county is paying for life flights. But now when the ambulance arrives at an emergency in Selmer, EMS technicians ask patients where they want to be taken."

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