Newswire: Pickens County Medical Center in Carrollton closes March 6, 2020

A rural community hospital in west Alabama is being forced to close this week, less than a year after administrators warned they were struggling to make ends meet.
Pickens County Medical Center in Carrollton closed this past Friday, according to a press release that cited reduced federal funding, lower reimbursement from private payers, a high percentage of uninsured patients as well as too few patients and physicians.
“Health Care Authority officials have worked diligently to explore every option for keeping the hospital open, but the hospital’s financial condition has become unsustainable. As a result, closure can no longer be avoided,” the release said.
Existing patients were discharged or relocated by Friday.
Administrators warned in May that declining numbers of patients and doctors had made the 56-bed facility vulnerable to closure. The hospital employed 156 workers when it opened in 1979, which was down to 118 last year.
At one time, there were nine primary physicians who worked out of the hospital, which had dropped to just four in May.
The shutdown is only the latest in a wave of hospital closings nationwide. The Alabama Hospital Association said 17 privately run hospitals have closed in the state over the last decade, and only one of those reopened.
A new report by the Chartis Center for Rural Health said 2019 was the worst year for rural hospital closures this decade, with 19 closures nationwide marking a record high for a 12-month period.
“Our analysis shows that hospitals located in states that have not adopted Medicaid expansion have lower median operating margin and have a higher percentage of rural hospitals operating with a negative operating margin,” the report by University of North Carolina researchers said.
“The closure of Pickens County Medical Center is symptomatic of a tragic national trend,” the press release said. “Over the last 10 years, over 120 rural hospitals have closed across our nation.”
“We appreciate the opportunity to have been of service for so many years to the citizens of our community. We are working with state and federal regulators on our closure plan and will coordinate with other medical providers to assist our patients with a smooth transition.
“We wish to commend our dedicated staff members for their service to the hospital and the community. For our staff members, we will be working with other employers to facilitate access to potential employment opportunities.