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Rural Health

Shock as Mayo Clinic cuts loose Waycross hospital

Mayo Clinic’s startling decision to pull out of its “integration agreement’’ with Satilla Health Services has left the South Georgia hospital with an uncertain future.

Officials with Mayo’s Florida operation said Friday that they ended the deal with Satilla in Waycross to focus on expanding specialty care for people with complex medical needs.

Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville

Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville

Mayo said it will concentrate on building relationships with other providers through affiliation models, rather than acquisitions.

The Mayo pullout will return Satilla Regional Medical Center to the status of a standalone hospital at the very time when consolidation of health care facilities is accelerating, propelled partly by changes created under the Affordable Care Act.  full story

Letter to the Editor: The importance of rural health

Nov. 19 is National Rural Health Day, an opportunity to celebrate the “can do” spirit of our rural communities. On this day, we honor the unselfish, community-minded determination of our rural healthcare providers. This day is also an opportunity to focus on these communities and the unique challenges they face – finding ways to take care of their own, dealing with hospital and clinic closures, a dwindling healthcare workforce, and declining revenues.

Gary Nelson

Gary Nelson

And despite challenges in rural infrastructure, poverty, unemployment, education, transportation, and a changing demography, those who deliver rural healthcare in our state demonstrate what is possible through collaboration, professional dedication, entrepreneurship, and volunteerism. Georgia’s rural healthcare workforce has become the great equalizer when facing the persistent inequities in health that penalize rural Georgians. Every day, their heroic efforts demonstrate the delicate relationship between the health of one and health of all.

At Healthcare Georgia Foundation, we firmly believe that one’s health should not be determined by the person’s place of residence or ZIP code. Rural Georgians, on average, are older, sicker, and poorer than urban residents and find themselves each day relying on a severely compromised healthcare system. If ignored, Georgia’s healthcare delivery system is at risk of collapsing on the shoulders of frail rural communities. full story

Another rescue of a Georgia hospital?

Prime Healthcare, fresh off its deal to save a struggling metro Atlanta hospital, has now targeted another Georgia hospital under bankruptcy protection.

California-based Prime told GHN on Wednesday that it has made a bid to acquire Hutcheson Medical Center, a northwest Georgia facility that’s about to close.

Hutcheson Medical Center

Hutcheson Medical Center

Hutcheson, in the small community of Fort Oglethorpe, has a heavy debt load and big financial losses, and the bankruptcy court judge issued an order for closure Dec. 4. If that happens, it would make Hutcheson the fifth rural Georgia hospital to shut its doors since 2013.

Prime Healthcare Services and the nonprofit Prime Healthcare Foundation own and operate 38 acute-care hospitals in 11 states. They are known for acquiring financially distressed hospitals and turning them around.

The foundation’s purchase of Southern Regional Medical Center is set for review by the Georgia attorney general, after a bankruptcy court issued its final approval order on the deal for the Clayton County hospital in late October. The AG is considered likely to agree to the sale, based on past cases. full story

Another rural hospital going out of business

A rural hospital in northwest Georgia, burdened by a heavy debt load and large financial losses, is set to close Dec. 4.

Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe would be the fifth rural Georgia hospital to shut its doors since 2013.

Hutcheson Medical Center

Hutcheson Medical Center

A bankruptcy court judge issued the order for the closure this week, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Hospital employees were told of the closing date on Thursday, according to the Walker County Messenger/Catoosa County News.

The Hutcheson CEO, Farrell Hayes, declined comment Friday on the closure, referring GHN to the trustee appointed by a bankruptcy court judge to oversee hospital operations during its Chapter 11 reorganization. Trustee Ron Glass could not be reached for comment. full story

More Georgia kids insured as ACA takes hold

The number of uninsured children in Georgia dropped by nearly 50,000 after the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, a new report has found.

But the state’s 189,000 children who remain uninsured make Georgia’s rate relatively high – 7.6 percent, versus 6 percent nationally.

childrenplayThe report from Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families said the national total of 4.4 million uninsured children in 2014 was down from 5.2 million the previous year. The 6 percent national average is a historic low, the report said.

“The Affordable Care Act is one of the most significant domestic policy initiatives in decades, and it builds on more than a decade of success in reducing the number of uninsured children through Medicaid and [the Children’s Health Insurance Program],” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown center. “This national achievement in reducing the number of uninsured children is the result of many efforts made by many different policymakers and stakeholders at the state and national levels.”

About half the remaining uninsured children live in six states – Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania. (Most of those states are among the nation’s most populous overall.) full story

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