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Parking lots have now taken the place of emergency rooms in rural Tennessee

Consequences deadly as Tennessee hospitals close
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Posted at 4:12 PM, Dec 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-05 22:45:40-05

CELINA, Tenn. (WTVF) — When Maria Ramirez stopped breathing on August 7 of this year, her son John’s first instinct was to rush her to the nearest emergency room. But, as they pulled into the parking lot of Jamestown Regional Medical Center, John knew he wouldn’t find help there.

The hospital had been shutdown just weeks before Maria Ramirez’s heart attack.

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With no time and no options, John drove his 94-year-old unconscious mother to a nearby family physician's office. Clinicians tilted back the front seat of John’s car and began performing CPR on his mother.

Parking lots and passenger seats have now taken the place of emergency rooms across Tennessee.

“If the hospital had still been open, she would still be alive … she would’ve at least survived a little longer, she would’ve had a little more time,” the 71-year-old said.

Maria Ramirez passed away a few days later. The beloved great grandmother has now become the face of the rural healthcare crisis across the state. Since the start of 2012, at least a dozen hospitals have shutdown, leaving places like Fentress County where Jamestown Regional is located, with no access to emergency care.

“It shouldn’t be happening, if they had pulled up to an emergency department there would’ve been a lot of hands to administer everything she needed,” says Doctor Richard Clark, who administered CPR to Mrs. Ramirez in the parking lot of family practice.

And with more hospitals on the verge of closing by the end of the year, it’s a situation that only appears to be getting worse with time.

CLICK HERE: To read more of Chris Conte's reporter on the rural health crisis.