Another Rural Hospital Closes
ATHENS - Lower Oconee Community Hospital is closing becoming the state’s fourth rural hospital to do so in the past two years.
Lower Oconee suffered from high rates of unemployed and uninsured patients, coupled with heavy demand on staff time to handle claims processing from multiple insurance programs. According to Georgia Health News the Wheeler County area had a 23 percent uninsured rate, and 10 percent of citizens are unemployed . In case of an emergency, residents will have to travel roughly 30 miles — to Vidalia, Dublin or Eastman — to get care.
Possible help for the rural hospitals may come from legislative proposals to relax the state’s certificate-of-need rules on establishing rural medical facilities. The less restrictive rules would allow the creation of a standalone emergency department if a rural hospital closes
Since 2000, eight rural hospitals have closed in Georgia.