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Economic Ripples: Hospital Closure Hurts A Town’s Ability To Attract Retirees

When a rural neighborhood loses its hospital, well being care turns into more durable to return by instantly. But a hospital closure additionally shocks a small city’s financial system. It shuts down one in all its largest employers. It scares off heavy business that wants an emergency room close by. And in a single Tennessee city, a misplaced hospital means misplaced hope of attracting extra retirees.

Seniors, and their retirement accounts, have been seen as potential saviors for a lot of rural economies making an attempt to make up for misplaced jobs. But the epidemic of rural hospital closures is threatening these desires in locations like Celina, Tenn. The city of 1,500, whose 25-bed hospital closed March 1, has been trying to position itself as a retiree vacation spot.

“I’d say, look elsewhere,” stated Susan Scovel, a Seattle transplant who arrived together with her husband in 2015.

Scovel’s despondence is very noteworthy given she leads the native chamber of commerce effort to draw retirees like herself. She considers the wooded hills and secluded lake to carry scenic magnificence similar to the Washington coast — with dramatically decrease prices of residing; she and a small committee plan getaway weekends for prospects to go to.

When she first toured the area earlier than transferring in 2015, Scovel and her husband, who had Parkinson’s, made certain to scope out the hospital, on a hill overlooking the sleepy city sq.. And she has rushed to the hospital 4 occasions since he died in 2017.

“I have very high blood pressure, and they’re able to do the IVs to get it down,” Scovel stated. “This is an anxiety thing since my husband died. So now — I don’t know.”

She can’t in good conscience advise a senior with well being issues to return be a part of her in Celina, she stated.

Closure of the hospital meant 147 nurses, aides and clerical workers needed to discover new jobs. The hospital was the city’s second-largest employer, after the native faculty system.(Blake Farmer/WPLN)

When Seconds Count, Delays In Care

Celina’s Cumberland River Hospital had been on life assist for years, operated by the city-owned medical middle an hour away in Cookeville, which decided in late January to chop its losses after looking for a purchaser. Cookeville Regional Medical Center executives clarify that the power confronted the grim actuality for a lot of rural suppliers.

“Unfortunately, many rural hospitals across the country are having a difficult time and facing the same challenges, like declining reimbursements and lower patient volumes, that Cumberland River Hospital has experienced,” CEO Paul Korth stated in a written assertion.

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Celina grew to become the 11th rural hospital in Tennessee to shut in recent times — greater than in any state however Texas. Both states have refused to develop Medicaid in a method that covers extra of the working poor. Even some Republicans now say the choice to not develop Medicaid has added to the struggles of rural well being care suppliers.

The closest hospital is now 18 miles away. That provides one other 30 minutes by means of mountain roads for many who want an X-ray or bloodwork. For these behind an ambulance, that little bit of time might imply the distinction between life or dying.

Staff members posted images and different memorabilia within the halls — reminders of happier occasions — within the weeks earlier than its closure.(Blake Farmer/WPLN)

“We have the capability of doing a lot of advanced life support, but we’re not a hospital,” stated Natalie Boone, Clay County’s emergency administration director.

The space is already restricted in its ambulance service, with two of its 4 vans out of service.

Once a crew is dispatched, Boone stated, it’s dedicated to that decision. Adding an hour to the turnaround time means another person might possible name with an emergency and be informed — primarily — to attend in line.

“What happens when you have that patient that doesn’t have that extra time?” Boone requested. “I can think of at least a minimum of two patients [in the last month] that did not have that time.”

Residents are bracing for cascading results. Susan Bailey hasn’t retired but, however she’s shut. She has spent almost 40 years as a registered nurse, together with her early profession at Cumberland River.

“People say, ‘You probably just need to move or find another place to go,’” she stated.

Bailey and others are involved that shedding the hospital will quickly imply shedding the one three physicians on the town. The docs say they plan to maintain their practices going, however for the way lengthy? And what about once they retire?

“That’s a big problem,” Bailey stated. “The doctors aren’t going to want to come in and open an office and have to drive 20 or 30 minutes to see their patients every single day.”

Susan Bailey has lived most of her life in Celina and began her nursing profession at Cumberland River Hospital. She now worries that its closure will drive away the city’s remaining physicians.(Blake Farmer/WPLN)

Closure of the hospital means 147 nurses, aides and clerical workers have to search out new jobs. Some staff come to tears on the prospect of getting to search out work exterior the county and are deeply unhappy that their hometown is shedding one in all its largest employers — second solely to the native faculty system.

Dr. John McMichen is an emergency doctor who would journey to Celina to work weekends on the ER and provides the native docs a break.

“I thought of Celina as maybe the ‘Andy Griffith Show’ of health care,” he stated.

McMichen, who additionally labored on the now-shuttered Copper Basin Medical Center, on the opposite aspect of the state, stated folks at Cumberland River knew nearly anybody who would stroll by means of the door. That’s why it was enticing to retirees.

“It reminded me of a time long ago that has seemingly passed. I can’t say that it will ever come back,” he stated. “I have hopes that there’s still some hope for small hospitals in that type of community. But I think the chances are becoming less of those community hospitals surviving.”

This story is a part of a partnership that features Nashville Public Radio, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

Blake Farmer, Nashville Public Radio: bfarmer@wpln.org”>bfarmer@wpln.org, @flakebarmer

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