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Financial struggles cause two rural hospitals to close

Community leaders fear this is just the beginning of state closures.

COMMERCE, Ga. — Over 23,000 people have been hospitalized for the coronavirus across the state according to the latest numbers from the Georgia Department of Public Health. Financial struggles combined with impacts from COVID-19 are now forcing two rural hospitals to close.

This week, Northridge Medical Center in Commerce announced that it would be closing this fall. The announcement comes just three weeks after Southwest Georgia Regional made the same decision. Both hospitals will shut down in October and lay off more than 100 employees. 

The President of the New Georgia Project, a state initiative to provide access to services for residents of color, warns the closures will take a toll on Georgia's poorest communities.

“It’s the idea that if one of us doesn’t have access to healthcare, then all of us are at potentially at risk especially in the midst of a global pandemic," said CEO, Nse Ufot.

One of the state's top healthcare lobbyists, Monty Veazey said that rural hospitals are the economic engines for their communities. 

"When these hospitals shut down, it impacts the entire county and surrounding businesses," Veazey added.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would provide more than $35 million in additional funding to states to support high-quality care in rural communities. 

Ufot said he worries that this type of funding is just a bandage that "just highlights the need for quality universal healthcare.”

With the closure of Northridge Medical and Northwest Georgia Regional, there are only 28 remaining rural hospitals in the state.