BY BRUCE BRANUM
The Greenville Standard
The Georgiana Hospital will be closing effective March 31 according to CEO Mike Bruce of Ivy Creek.
He stated in a press conference on Tuesday, Feb. 12 in Georgiana, “We are here to announce a sad day for Georgiana and Georgiana Hospital employees. Effective March 31, we are going to be closing down the hospital.
“What will remain to continue for the health care services in this area? We will still maintain the clinics and home health agency.
“We are going to work together with L.V. Stabler to work out a joint agreement to continue health care services here and if you have any kind of in-patient or ER patient needs go to L.V. Stabler.
“That’s really the best way to maintain the quality care services for Butler County.”
Bruce continued, “Over the last couple of years, we have losing a lot of money. It’s with Medicaid expansion that didn’t work and the lack of provider doctors in this area that made it increasingly difficult to continue.”
The Georgiana Hospital has about 50 employees and Bruce expects they will not be able to maintain 50 percent.
The Department of Commerce was on hand to speak with hospital employees and Bruce announced a joint arrangement with L.V. Stable to host a job fair in the next couple of weeks.
He indicated that through March 31, Ivy Creek will try and place employees with other hospitals or health care providers but he could make no promises.
As for the hospital building, Bruce said, “We are still going to have diagnostics there and to try and maintain the lab and X-ray and continue with the clinics we have here. What we’ll lose here are the ER and in-patient service.”
He indicated the hospital will probably be used for home health and some other areas of health services as they try and reinvent themselves.
“Rural hospitals are closing down left and right and if we don’t do something to change this, we are not the only one going to be closing. The economics of it are we need Medicaid expansion in this state and more doctors to come here. We need more nurse practitioners to have bigger impendence and to come to these rural areas,” said Bruce.
According to Danne Howard, Policy Director at the Alabama Hospitals Association, about 88 percent of the state’s rural hospitals are operating “in the red” and aren’t currently receiving reimbursements that can cover the cost of delivering care.
Alabama U.S. Senator Doug Jones issued a statement of the closing of Georgiana Medical Center, which said, “For years, our rural hospitals have been warning public officials about the financial cliff they faced in large part as a result of unfair Medicare reimbursement rates and the refusal to expand Medicaid in Alabama. Thirteen hospitals have closed in our state since 2011. Seven of those have been in rural areas. How many more rural health care providers need to close for meaningful action to be taken? This should be a wake-up call – actually, another wake up call.”
In his decision to close the hospital Bruce indicated it was situation of a thousand cuts.
He said, “Government regulations to run a hospital have become astronomical in the recent years and that’s not going away.
“Obamacare, eight or 10 years ago, was one of those moments and not getting Medicaid expansion. In recent times we had a disproportionate share of moneys that comes to all hospitals. There was an additional $80 million dollars that was allocated to the hospitals and this hospital got cut 70 percent. It’s just not an economic formula for success.”
Though Georgiana Hospital is closing, Bruce believes it will have a positive effect for Butler County and with Greenville’s tax allocation for L.V. Stabler Memorial hospital it will help with new equipment and additional staffing. “I see this as a positive move for all parties,” he said.
“When you have two competing hospitals who are losing money in the past, to allow one to close and the other to maintain, frankly, I see additional services, doctors, and specialists they haven’t had in the past,” Bruce added.
After Bruce made his announcement of the hospital closing, Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon spoke and indicated that L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital would be making a name change to Regional Medical Center of South Alabama.
“This is extremely important for us to make sure we reach out and let everyone know we want to be a community hospital,” said McLendon.
He also said in the two years of knowing Bruce, that Bruce had done everything in his power to keep the Georgiana Hospital open.
“What we are trying to do is to make sure we have healthcare in the county for everybody. When Gov. Bentley didn’t take the Medicaid money, he might as well as have taken a gun to us. It’s that simple,” stated McLendon.
He added that he was working with Georgiana Mayor Jerome Antone and the City of Georgiana to do everything they could to have better health care for Butler County.
The Georgiana Clinic will also change its name to Regional Medical Clinics of South Alabama.