Another rural hospital in southwest Georgia is closing. Stewart-Webster Hospital in Richland closed its emergency room Tuesday, and rest of the hospital will suspend...

Another rural hospital in southwest Georgia is closing.

Stewart-Webster Hospital in Richland closed its emergency room Tuesday, and rest of the hospital will suspend operations at noon Friday.

The for-profit, 25-bed “critical access’’ hospital is the largest employer in Richland, according to WRBL News.

It follows the February closure of Calhoun Memorial in Arlington, 50 miles south of Richland.

Stewart-Webster’s president, Randy Stigleman, cited several factors, including high unemployment and low payments from Medicare and Medicaid, WRBL reported.

Jimmy Lewis, CEO of HomeTown Health, an association of rural hospitals, said Wednesday that the hospital serves “a remarkably remote section of Georgia.’’

“It’s truly a health care access disaster,’’ he told GHN.

“They just ran out of cash,’’ Lewis said.

The closure of Stewart-Webster, Lewis said, shows “we’re on a downhill trend that can escalate because of [poor] Medicare and Medicaid payments.’’

The hospital said most of its revenue comes from Medicare.

“The future for rural health care is fragile in trying to accommodate mandated health benefits without payment,’’ Lewis said.

Residents of rural counties tend to have poorer health than their urban counterparts.

Stewart County, which Richland is located, ranks 158 out of 159 counties in Georgia on health outcomes in the newly released 2013 County Health Rankings, from the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The bottom 10 Georgia counties are mainly rural, while the counties with the best health in the state are urban/suburban and are in the Atlanta or Athens areas, the rankings show.

Stigleman of Stewart-Webster said the hospital did not receive a $1 million incentive payment from the federal government for the facility’s switch to electronic medical records, WRBL reported.

He said there is a possibility that the hospital could reopen in the future if officials find a way to bring in more services. Patients are being diverted to Columbus hospitals.

The community will lose about $10 million in revenue per year with the hospital shutting down, Stigleman said.


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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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  • james fitzgibbons

    Hospitals are suffering from serious cash-flow problems, largely due to the area’s 23 percent uninsured population !Many hospitals in the 25 states that rejected the Medicaid expansion are facing similar financial problems.

    WHY ARE RURAL HOSPITALS PRIMARILY IN THE SOUTH GOING BANKRUPT?

    ANSWER- BECAUSE THEY DO NOT HAVE THE FINANCIAL SUPPORT IN THE COMMUNITY DUE TO LOW INCOMES AND ABOUT 25% WITHOUT ANY INSURANCE!

    EXPANDING MEDICAID AND SUPPORTING OBAMACARE SUBSIDIES SO THEY ALL HAVE INSURANCE WOULD SOLVE THE PROBLEM!

    BUT WHO CARES? POLITICS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE HEALTH OF THESE POOR FOLKS, MANY OF WHOM ARE REPUBLICANS!

  • James Gaudin

    We lament the dysfunction of our federal elected officials and now our Governor and other state elected officials are also letting us down. Because of partisan politics our Governor has foolishly said “No” to millions of federal dollars that would come from the federally-financed expansion of Medicaid to tens of thousands of uninsured, working class Georgians ! These federal dollars could provide life support to our cash-starved rural community hospitals who provide care to tens of thousands of uninsured working class Georgians. The provision of health insurance to tens of thousands of uninsured Georgians with no cost to the State for the first three years, and then only 10% of the cost after 2020. What a bargain ! Yet our head-in-the sand state leaders say we can’t afford it. Who of us would turn down good health insurance at 10% of the cost ? It makes no sense.
    As the auto mechanic says ” pay me now or pay me more later” ! We pay the high cost of untreated chronic health problems to the tune of tens of millions of dollars for intensive treatment, because the uninsured don’t go for treatment because they can’t afford the cost. Ten thousand of those incarcerated in Georgia’s prisons and jails at the cost of $40,000 per year each have serious mental health problems that contributed to their being incarcerated. The tens of millions of federal dollars that would come to Georgia by our expanding Medicaid could help to support our inadequately staffed, cash-starved community mental health services .
    However, its seems that partisan politics is preferred over rational thinking by our Governor and other elected state officials. Let us hope and pray that they will come to their senses and do the what is best for the State and the tens of thousands of uninsured Georgians by agreeing to expand Medicaid to the working poor of Georgia.

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