Irwin County is about a three-hour drive from Atlanta down I-75 and has a population of about 9,000 people. But the hospital delivers babies from around the area, about 400 a year.
“If we’re not here, people die, and that’s something that we live with every day,” said Clay Jones, regional director of operations for E.R. Hospitals, which manages Irwin County Hospital and three other rural hospitals in Georgia.
Last year, Irwin County Hospital was about $2.5 million in the red, hospital officials said. Irwin County Hospital recently topped a state list of rural hospitals in need of financial help and is one of dozens in Georgia trying to stay afloat. According to the NC Rural Health Research Program, six rural hospitals in Georgia have closed since 2010.
Jones said one reason for the shortfall at Irwin County is that people who come in often don’t have insurance – and even if they do, they can’t meet the high deductible.
“Our emergency room doesn’t make money because a lot of people that come to our emergency room just aren’t able to pay in rural markets,” Jones said.
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