Leaders hope to revive health in rural Georgia

Leaders hope to revive health in rural Georgia
Brandi Lunneborg
Brandi Lunneborg
Freddie Powell Sims
Freddie Powell Sims

AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - In the past few years Georgia has been losing hospitals.

That's why health in rural communities was the focus of a summit at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center Tuesday.
"We've lost four in the last few years and there is now one closing right now which means the problem hasn't been solved," said Brandi Lunneborg, CEO of the hospital.

Most of the hospitals that have shut down have been in rural communities. Two of those were in Southwest Georgia.

Hospitals can account for 15 to 20 percent of jobs in rural communities.

"When you take that hospital away and you often times lose a lot of the industries that is supporting the economy of that community," Lunneborg said.

State leaders and leaders in the medical field in Southwest Georgia came together for the Phoebe Rural Health Summit at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center. The event was hosted by State Senator Feddie Sims.

"It's important that we bring all of the stake holders together and use the information that each of us is afforded to our community," said Sims.

Lunneborg said the biggest reason why most of these hospitals have shut down is the cost of patients with Medicaid or those without insurance at all.

"Our Medicaid and government expense is about 70 percent of what we see as payment for services," Lunneborg explained.

She said that having a large percentage in Sumter County alone creates an obstacle for the hospital.

Government officials said they will go back to the drawing board to see if they can put an end to the problem.

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle spoke at the rural health care summit. He said Georgia has to be innovative in fixing these problems, and there are already things in place to tackle these issues head on.

"We've got to step up and we have a rural health care committee that's looking right now in ways where we can create a financial model that's sustainable going forward," Cagle said.

Cagle thinks another solution could be found in improving the education system.

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