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Rural Health

Hospitals cutting payrolls to cope with hard times

A recent series of job cuts shows that tough financial times remain for the state’s hospitals – and may get worse next year, experts say.

The biggest cuts have come in two hospital systems in Columbus.

Columbus Regional Health eliminated 219 positions in a cost-reduction move in November. The cuts came after a $17 million operating loss in fiscal 2013 and a similar loss in fiscal 2014, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported. The job cuts included 99 terminations.

Later in the month, St. Francis Hospital, also in Columbus, eliminated 65 filled positions and 15 vacant positions while grappling with a $30 million accounting inaccuracy it discovered in October.

Newton Medical Center

Newton Medical Center

And last Friday, 23 employees of Newton Medical Center in Covington were affected by staff cuts, the Rockdale Citizen reported.

The layoffs are not at the level that Georgia hospitals pursued during the depths of the recession. And they may be partly a sign of necessary belt-tightening during difficult times.

Still, hospital industry officials see that the current revenue trends aren’t positive. full story

Sagging rural hospital tries to get an urban boost

A struggling rural hospital in east-central Georgia hopes to gain firmer financial footing  through a new partnership with University Health Care System in Augusta.

University Health Care will manage Washington County Regional Medical Center in Sandersville beginning Jan. 1, under an agreement announced Monday.

univSuch rural hospitals and their survival have been a focus for political leaders in Georgia after the closure of four of these facilities in the past two years.

Jimmy Lewis of HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals in Georgia, said recently that besides the four closures, 15 more facilities are “financially fragile.” Six of those, he said, “could go tomorrow due to low cash.”

Those financial pressures led Gov. Nathan Deal to appoint a Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, which last week concluded its hearings with a public comment period.

Earlier this year, Washington County Regional Medical Center  discontinued non-emergency baby deliveries because of financial losses, joining the more than 40 hospitals in rural areas in Georgia that have given up deliveries due to costs. full story

State panel meets over ailing rural hospitals

Struggling to stay afloat financially, a northwest Georgia rural hospital has opted to file for bankruptcy protection from its creditors.

Officials at Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe said Wednesday evening that the filing would allow it to continue operations, restructure debt, and help protect it from a Chattanooga system’s effort to foreclose on the hospital’s property.

Erlanger Health System has tried to recoup about $20 million it loaned Hutcheson as part of a management agreement.

Hutcheson Medical Center

Hutcheson Medical Center

The bankruptcy action came just hours before Gov. Nathan Deal’s Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee met in Lavonia on Thursday at Ty Cobb Regional Medical Center — another rural hospital experiencing severe financial challenges.

The panel heard speakers outline the depth of the state’s rural health care crisis.

Four rural hospitals have closed in Georgia over the past two years. Jimmy Lewis of HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals, told the committee that 15 more facilities are “financially fragile.” Six of those, he said, “could go tomorrow due to low cash.”

“We’re approaching Third World care in the state of Georgia,’’ Lewis said.

More than 40 Georgia counties lack obstetrical providers, and just 75 of 180 hospitals in the state have labor and delivery units, Pat Cota of the Georgia OB/GYN Society told panel members. full story

Health statistics show link to local economy

Georgia counties with poor health statistics tend to lag on economic vitality as well, an analysis shows.

Partner Up for Public Health, an advocacy campaign, has produced a comparison of data ranking counties on health outcomes and economic strength.

The analysis “shows how intertwined they are,’’ said Charlie Hayslett, whose Hayslett Group firm manages the Partner Up campaign under a grant from the Healthcare Georgia Foundation.

Nineteen of the 20 Georgia counties at the bottom of the economic statistics are classified as rural, Hayslett said Wednesday.

The Partner Up analysis uses the state’s 2011 job tax credit rankings — based on poverty rates, unemployment and average per capita income – as an indicator of economic strength.

Tax credit rankings are designed to give incentives to employers to create jobs in poorer regions of the state. The worse off a county is, the higher the tax credit the state will give employers to create jobs there.

Health Stats Show link to Local Economy

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