Emergency room at Pearl River County Hospital. (Photo Source: WLOX News)
Nurses looking over charts at Pearl River County Hospital. (Photo Source: WLOX News)
PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -
A recent report highlights nine rural hospitals throughout the state that are at risk of closing. Administrators from rural hospitals in South Mississippi are weighing in on their importance to their communities.
Steve Vaughan is the CEO of Pearl River County Hospital. He says although his hospital isn't at risk of closing, it's important to highlight the role rural hospitals play.
"Rural hospitals form the backbone of the health care delivery system in rural areas," Vaughan said.
He says having a nearby hospital is critical to rural communities.
"Patients come here for initial emergency care, then they'll need to go to a major medical center if they need to have surgery after that then they can return to the rural area close to home and have recovery." Vaughan said.
Dr. Jim Aiken says access to hospitals in rural areas can save lives. He says driving 30-40 minutes to get to a medical center could greatly decrease the likelihood of survival.
"For strokes, for heart attacks, for serious infections being able to be stabilized within a short amount of time is the difference between life and death," Aiken added.
Administrators at the Pearl River County Hospital say when rural hospitals are forced to close, it has huge a negative impact on the communities that those hospitals serve.
"Companies who are coming to set up a small business or large businesses don't want to move their family members into areas where there's no hospital," Vaughan noted.
And that's in addition to the obvious health implications. He says the reason why rural hospitals struggle is because they are self supporting.
"We take patients from various payer sources — medicare, medicaid, commercial insurance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield — and deliver services and get paid for services," Vaughan said.
Vaughan hopes that people will realize the importance of these hospitals and work to support them.