A hospital in Montezuma, 50 miles southwest of Macon, will close its emergency room on Sunday. The news that Flint River Hospital is closing its emergency room follows the pattern of three other rural hospitals closing its doors in Georgia.
It all comes down to cost. That's according to Jimmy Lewis, CEO of HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals in Georgia. "Patients don’t have anywhere to go, they don’t have insurance or they have high premiums which equates to no insurance and because the feds say to the emergency room that you have to see anyone that presents and when they cannot pay the rural hospital suffers the loss." Lewis says unemployment is also a driving force behind the struggle as well as the shortage of physicians in Georgia. "We’re about a thousand physicians short in the state of Georgia. So all things in addition to the stuff that’s coming down from the affordable care act is creating a perfect storm."
Closing the emergency room in Montezuma will mean longer trips to emergency rooms in nearby Perry or Americus.
In a statement, Flint River Hospital said that changes in health care are forcing them to adopt a more efficient business model. They will convert the ER to a crisis unit for specialized services like substance abuse and mental health treatment.