Butler County hospital to close next month

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GEORGIANA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama is losing another rural hospital.

The owners of the 22-bed Georgiana Medical Center in Butler County announced Tuesday that the hospital will close March 31.

Ivy Creek health care company, which owns the hospital, made the announcement Tuesday. There will be one remaining hospital in Butler County, the larger L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

“The rising costs of health care coupled with the cuts in reimbursement have made it impractical to maintain financial viability with two hospitals operating in Butler County,” Ivy Creek CEO Mike Bruce told news outlets.

News outlets reported that Ivy Creek’s rural health clinics will continue to operate under the management of Stabler. The two organizations will combine their home health agencies.

Six rural hospitals have closed in Alabama during the past eight years, not including the Georgiana hospital, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.

The closure reflects the financial struggle facing rural hospitals and renewed calls from advocacy groups to expand Medicaid in the state.

“We are extremely sad to hear of yet another hospital closing its doors and are concerned that it won’t be the last,” Alabama Hospital Association President Don Williamson said in a statement.

The organization estimates that 88 percent of all rural hospitals operate in the red, meaning reimbursements do not cover the cost of providing medical care.

Alabama is one of 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid under former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The Alabama Hospital Association launched a campaign last month to urge Alabama leaders to expand the state’s Medicaid program. The organization estimates expansion would provide health insurance coverage to 340,000 Alabama residents.

“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,” U.S. Sen. Doug Jones said in a statement after the hospital closure was announced.

A university study released by the Hospital Association estimated the state’s upfront cost of Medicaid expansion would be $1 billion over four years. However, the study estimated the budget cost would largely be offset by the tax collections and benefits from the increased economic activity.

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