Rural hospitals struggle amidst changing populations

Posted at 7:43 PM, Jun 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-26 21:05:40-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It is hard to imagine what it must be like to work as a nurse at hospital which has permanently closed but that is the reality Karen Cooper is living with. Karen was one of nearly 80 people who lost their jobs when Fentress County lost its only E.R., Jamestown Regional Medical Center.

"It was the saddest day of my life," Cooper said after the hospital closed.

But what's behind Tennessee's disturbing trend? A trend which has resulted in 12 rural hospitals closing statewide since 2012.

"Healthcare has just changed since those hospitals were built," says Ryan Cochran, an attorney who helps advise hospitals that are struggling financially.

Nationwide a decline in rural populations isn't helping hospitals like Jamestown and Cochran says rural hospitals struggling are usually trying to do too much.

"What a hospital really needs to do is look at all the services it provides and pick the ones it is good at," he added.

Time is also critical for hospitals facing financial problems.

"If you’re suffering financially the sooner you’re making choices to change your financial outcome the better off you’ll be," he said.