/Coahoma hospital warns of closure; nearly 500 jobs and a community’s lifeline at stake

Coahoma hospital warns of closure; nearly 500 jobs and a community’s lifeline at stake

Data from the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program showed that 87 rural hospitals in the United States closed between 2010 and present. Most were located in the South. Five of those five closures were in Mississippi. Now, a sixth closure could be imminent with the fate of Clarksdale hospital still uncertain. A hearing will be held on Oct. 23 to hear the operator’s emergency request for relief. This could include the possibility of closing the hospital. Officials in the area and community leaders are exploring other options to keep the county’s only hospital open. Curae Health Inc., an Tennessee-based non-profit health system filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Middle District of Tennessee for three rural hospitals in Clarksdale and Amory. Curae purchased the leases for the three Mississippi hospitals from Community Health Systems, Inc. in 2017. This publicly traded hospital company owns, leases, or operates 158 hospitals across 22 states. Derrell Washington, a Coahoma county supervisor, posted a Facebook message stating that employees at the hospital had received a WARN notice. Employers with more than 100 employees must notify them 60 days before closing a plant or a mass layoff. Paul Pearson, the president of the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors stated in a telephone call to Mississippi Today that the hospital “will not close” and that the board will do all it can to keep it open. Pearson said that Curae’s bank wanted to pay off the debt. However, Clarksdale’s hospital revenues were the lowest of all three Mississippi hospitals. But that is not a reflection of the quality of services provided. Pearson stated, “We run an excellent hospital, we offer great services…And out of all the people they’ve spoken to they said that this hospital will make money.” The board approved Monday morning the hiring of Trilogy Healthcare Solutions, Ridgeland’s consulting firm. In an email, Tom Ross, the board attorney, stated that Trilogy would assist in determining the “most reasonable course to allow the hospital to continue providing safe and sustainable health care services for all the communities it serves.” Curae claimed that the bankruptcy filings were the result of several problems. HealthLeaders Media reports that Curae issued a statement stating that financial difficulties, such as cuts in government funding, unfunded mandates for care, unexpected expenses related electronic medical records, and a cash crunch as vendors demanded payment of outstanding debts, were all factors in the bankruptcy filing. The statement stated that hospitals were not immune from these issues. “After exhausting all other options, it was clear that hospitals could no longer operate under mounting debt and tightening resources.” A hearing on Curae’s emergency motion to authorize Curae to shut down Clarksdale Hospital and reject all Clarksdale leases or contracts and to receive related relief is scheduled for Oct. 23rd at 2 p.m. to hear the case. County officials stated that they plan to keep the facility open and added that there are two potential buyers for the lease. Residents and the surrounding communities are at risk. Crystal Wimberly is a Clarksdale resident who has been living in Clarksdale for 29 years. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2015. “I know a lot people are negative about the hospital. They don’t do this or that… I’ve never had a problem in that ER. They saved my life. She said that if it wasn’t for the hospital and well-equipped ER – and that includes the nurses and doctors, I could have lost my life. “How many people will die if this hospital closes?” Wimberly said that before her resection years ago, she would visit the ER every other week because she was experiencing severe pain, swelling, and inflammation. Wimberly was “sick and tired” from being sick. She finally had the surgery and praised doctors for their success. Wimberly said that the hospital’s future is at risk and many of the nurses and doctors she helped may lose their jobs. She reflected on how hard they worked to finish nursing school and earn their degrees and how they can now see it as a challenge. According to Data USA, the health care industry is the largest employer of Coahoma County’s 1,640 employees. 484 people could be fired if the hospital was closed. About 23,000 people live in Coahoma County, which is 80 percent African American. According to 2018 Mississippi Labor Market Data, the county’s unemployment rate is 7.1 percent. This is the lowest in over 20 years but it still ranks among the top 10 in the state. According to the state’s list of hospitals, residents would need to drive 35 miles to Cleveland, or an hour to Greenville, Greenville or Greenwood in order to get services. Wimberly would have to drive a considerable distance to receive treatment. “I went to the doctor this AM, and my white cells count was high. I told him that it was about to return and that we would have another problem. I am in so much pain now, I cannot drive. Wimberly stated that he wouldn’t be able drive to Cleveland. What else can I do? It comes down to this, I cannot imagine what other people would do if our hospital was destroyed. Wimberly said that having a kindergarten-aged daughter brings more anxiety. What if that child is hurt? For many families, the difference between getting to our hospital in five minutes and going elsewhere could mean the difference of life or death. Nobody wants to lose their children. She said that no one wants to lose anyone. “I pray that someone will pick it up,” she said. Our hospital must be built. Five rural hospitals in Mississippi have been closed. What is the impact on these communities? It’s important to look at this because it will affect us if we look at it on a bigger scale.”_x000D