Calhoun Memorial lays off 29 workers, future is uncertain
ARLINGTON, GA (WALB) -
The Labor Department announced Thursday that December unemployment spiked to 9.2% in southwest Georgia.
That news comes as more than two dozen people lost their jobs at a small hospital struggling to deal with rising health care costs.
The administrator says Calhoun Memorial needs a miracle to stay open and avoid 200 more job losses.
Hospitals in rural areas around the country are struggling to keep their doors open due to rising medical care costs. Calhoun Memorial Hospital in Arlington is one of them.
"Healthcare doesn't look good going forward for anybody and as a result the small and rural hospitals are just finding it harder and harder to survive," said Calhoun County Hospital Authority CEO Earl Whiteley.
The hospital is going through critically tough economic times.
This week 29 workers were laid off. Administrators say the hospital couldn't absorb paying $1.8 million in indigent and charitable care last year.
Now the hospital is selling assets to pay bills and the future of the hospital is bleak.
"Unless things are changed or unless congress changes the Accountable Care Act or if there's some miracle that happens, we won't last a year," said Whiteley.
That's bad news for residents like Rock Hudson.
"The closest hospital to us is over there in Blakely, Georgia in Early County. I think that'll be the closet one here I think we need one in our hometown," said Hudson.
If Calhoun Memorial closes the next nearest hospitals are almost 30 minutes away.
Something Hudson believes residents can't afford in an emergency situation.
"I really think we need the hospital over here. A lot of people don't have transportation to get anywhere else. It's best if the hospital stays open," said Hudson.
The hospital employs nearly 200 people, so a closure could cripple the county's economy.
"If the hospital goes down that makes a major economic impact on how this county is going to grow or it will grow," said Whiteley.
He hopes it doesn't come down to that.
State Labor Department workers were at the hospital, Thursday, to provide information to help the 29 laid off workers move forward.