2017-05-03 / Front Page

Local leaders respond to closure of hospital

Local leaders have issued the following statements in response to the announcement last week that Optim Health System would close Optim Medical Center-Jenkins, merging it with the Screven facility.

Mandy Underwood, Executive Director, Millen/Jenkins County Chamber of Commerce/ Development Authority - “As the Development Authority continues to entertain new industry for Jenkins County, we are certainly concerned that the closing of the hospital will have a negative impact on new businesses or even new residents as this is one of the first things they consider when they are doing their due diligence. We know our local leaders are working to provide medical access to our community. Therefore, we are keeping an open mind for what the future may hold for our town and the people in it.”

James Henry, Chairman, Jenkins County Board of Commissioners, - “We are concerned about not only the medical losses but also the local job losses. And, at this time, we are trying to gather information as quickly as possible to determine the options available to provide our citizens with the best medical care possible. We have 60 days before the hospital closes to try and develop a plan. And we will keep citizens advised as plans develop.”

“This will also result in additional financial expenses for the county. It will take Emergency Medical Services personnel longer to transport patients to out-of-town-facilities, making it necessary to employ additional personnel for active duty when they go out. We have provided between $100,000 - $300,000 annually to the hospital to assist with indigent care expenses and feel we have tried to support the hospital in any way we could.”

King Rocker, Mayor, City of Millen – "The City regrets the decision by Optim to close the Jenkins Medical Center. The facility has provided healthcare for the citizens of Millen and Jenkins County since 1974. We will work with the County in trying to provide a solution for emergency healthcare to the citizens."

Alvin Burke, Director, Emergency Management Agency – “The announcement of Optim Medical-Jenkins closing is very disturbing and concerning to me. As someone that served Jenkins County Hospital for 31 years and 15 of them in administration capacity, I know what it means for employees, patients, physicians and residents of this county to have a healthcare facility in their time of need. This is going to pose a great burden on our community.”

“As Jenkins County EMA/ HS Director, I have already been contacted by other healthcare providers for planning on their patient care procedures in the closing of our local hospital. Patients having treatments in other facilities will now have to be transported by ambulance to an out-of county facility when the patient’s condition deteriorates. This is time that could be used for diagnostic and treatment purposes. This is a major resource EMA has depended on in times of disaster; we will lose licensed staff that could administer treatment in our local community in a time of need. Just consider the closing impact on our schools, nursing home, dialysis center, physician offices, recreational center, state park, EMS. I could continue on with this list but I hope we all get the understanding of what it means for our hospital to close.”

Tara Cooper, Jenkins County School Superintendent - “Of course, we are concerned with the news of the hospital’s closure. The welfare of our community greatly impacts the resources available for our students, the loss of jobs potentially affects our student enrollment and, most importantly, the closing of our local hospital puts our students and their families at greater risk in case of emergencies.

“We also want to inform the community that funds for the new school could not have been used to save the hospital. It is important to understand that funds for this new facility are available as part of a low-wealth grant from the state and designated specifically to replace local school buildings, some of which are 65 years old. None of that funding could have been used for the hospital in any way.”

Henry Young, Director, Jenkins County Emergency Medical Services (EMS)– “As a 40-year employee, I saw this coming a long time ago with the cuts in Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements and with some of the decisions made by hospital management. This will affect everyone and I think the citizens of Jenkins County should have been notified of this before they were. They should have had some input and the opportunity to make some suggestions. As for the EMS, we transported 95 patients last month to Optim and 45 patients from their homes to other facilities. The hospital closing will increase costs. We currently have one 24-hour truck. We will now probably need two 24-hour trucks, maybe three. Our turnaround time for transports will be from 3-4 hours. But, we will still be here. Jenkins County will not lose EMS services because of the hospital closing. We will respond to any emergency that arises. We will continue to serve our citizens.”

Shelly Cain, PruittHealth- Bethany Administrator - “It is business as usual at Bethany. I don’t see things changing much for us. The doctors will continue to see residents here and should they need hospitalization, it’s the residents’ decision as to where they go. In the event of a 9-1-1 crisis, the ambulance service will transfer the patient to the nearest Critical Access Hospital. Any rumors that we will close due to this action are completely false.”

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