Stewart County hospital to shut down permanently - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Stewart County hospital to shut down permanently

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RICHLAND, GA (WTVM) -

A hospital in our region is closing its doors on Friday, putting a large part of that community out of work.  The entire hospital staff will be out of a job.

 "We have 76 employees and 76 of them will be unemployed as of Friday.  Some today, some tomorrow," said hospital administrator, Leona Leaman.

 Nurses say they didn't get any clues about the trouble until two days ago.

 "The owner came in early Monday morning, which was kind of unexpected.  Then the mayor showed up, so we all had red flags going up.  There were always rumors that were going around about the changes in health care that were being made and if the small hospital could stay afloat. But that was always just rumors.  We never had any kind of inclination that it would be so sudden," said nurse, Rebecca Shepherd.

 "You know he didn't give us a month or two ahead or something like that, he just came in one day and said, 'we're going to close.' What kind of? ... You don't do that," said nurse's assistant, Sarah Jackson.

 The president of the hospital, Randy Stigleman, said a large part of the problem is a recent change in medicare funding.

 "The federal government's just not giving us anything, hardly.  We're like 75% medicare and we're just not getting the rates," said Leaman.

 That combined with a decrease in business from other community institutions, who are also tightening their budgets, had a disastrous impact upon the hospital's operations. Not only will the employees suffer without their jobs, the county relies on this location for its emergency treatment.  The nearest other facilities are in Americus or Columbus.

 "If there was anything, an emergency, we would stabilize them here and eventually try to transfer them out, but now there will be nowhere for at least another 45 minutes distance for them to do that," said Shepherd.

 The mayor of Richland said he has been traveling throughout the state today attempting to find a buyer who will reopen the hospital because the town can't live without it.

 A job fair is being held at that Stewart County Hospital from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday and it's sponsored by the Medical Center in Columbus.

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