CUTHBERT, Ga. (WTVM) - Fifty hospital employees in Randolph county are looking for new jobs because the hospital in Cuthbert is closing.
According to the chairman of the hospital authority, the plan is to close the doors to the emergency room for good in October, meaning people have three options: traveling 25 miles to Eufaula, 45 miles to Albany, or 55 miles to Columbus.
After 73 years of service, Patterson Hospital at the Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center is preparing to close it's doors.
“I was devastated,” Brenda Clark said. “I was born here.”
For residents like Clark, there are many concerns about the only hospital in rural Randolph County closing.
“My doctor that works there. He probably won’t be there either, so that means when he leaves I won’t have my job here, so that ripple effect,” Clark said.
“Closing the hospital and especially the ER, we’re going to have more deaths,” Mollie Reynolds added.
Steve Whatley wears several hats in the area, including serving as the mayor of Cuthbert and the chairman of the Randolph County Hospital Authority.
He said for the 26 years he’s been on the board, finances have always been a concern.
“We had hopes to avoid it,” Whatley said. “But it became apparent that this was our only option.”
He said the hospital needs more than $10 million worth of upgrades for things like a new roof and air conditioner system. Those two things alone are estimated to cost about $4 million.
“I would say COVID-19 pushed us over the edge,” Whatley said. “But we were struggling before that also.”
On October 22, the emergency room and acute care services will close its doors to patients. Only the nursing home and clinic will remain open.
“If you were in need of an emergency room, your choices would be Eufaula, Barbour County, which is about 25 miles away, or Albany, or Columbus,” Whatley said.
Unfortunately, this situation is all too familiar across the country, even during a pandemic.
“Forty plus hospitals have closed or filed for bankruptcy in the United States this year, and the majority of them being rural,” Whatley said.
Not only does the hospital impact healthcare in the area, but it plays a role in the economy too. Whatley said 50 jobs will be lost in October. But there is a plan in place to help prevent people from being unemployed altogether.
“Phoebe Putney and Eufaula, Barbour County, have reached out to us to try to help us secure jobs for those people who are being impacted. Hopefully, no one will go without a job and hopefully they’re close enough where those residents won’t have to relocate and will be able to drive from Cuthbert. “We’re doing everything we can do to secure those people jobs,” Whatley said.