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Friday, March 19, 2010 - 3:47am

Small Hospitals Face Tough Times

Updated: 4 years ago.
Storefronts sit empty in Millen as the unemployment rate there rises. (GPB file photo)

The bad economy and high unemployment are affecting hospitals in small towns like Millen.

With so many people out of work, few people there have insurance. Jenkins County Hospital is increasingly treating poor people who can’t afford care, absorbing the costs and causing thousands of dollars in shortfalls.

"The hospital is a vital part of the community, and a vital part of helping draw new industry and we need to keep it there and keep it strong," says King Rocker, the mayor of Millen. "Really and truly the only thing that can help that is some new industry to help put people back to work."

The small hospital already can’t afford to do procedures such as colonoscopies or minor surgery. Full-time employees have a bigger workload since the hospital laid off all part-time staff a couple of years ago.

Funding from the Jenkins County commission has helped plugged the hospital's shortfalls. Hospital officials, however, say they'll make another request for more dollars sometime during the current fiscal year due to the budget woes.

Rocker estimates that only half of Millen's residents have health insurance. Hospital officials say the number of people with full-coverage private health insurance is far smaller, with most of them being teachers or state employees.

The unemployment rate in Jenkins County in January was 21.8 percent, one of the highest in the state.

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