Sen. Doug Jones talks with health care leaders about rural hospital closures

Sen. Doug Jones talks health care

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Sen. Doug Jones met with health care leaders Tuesday to talk about solutions to Alabama’s rural health care crisis.

Thirteen hospitals have closed in Alabama in less than a decade.

“We’ve got to keep these hospitals in these communities,” Jones said. “Hospitals and health care are a lifeblood of a community. And when hospitals start leaving communities start drying up.”

Jones visited Lake Martin Community Hospital where leaders shared the problems they are facing.

Mike Bruce is the Ivey Creek Healthcare CEO, which owns Lake Martin Community Hospital. He said low reimbursements are costing the hospital money.

Bruce said low reimbursements affect hospitals across the state. For Lake Martin Community Hospital, they had to stop providing MRI scans because of the low reimbursements.

“Rural hospitals are feeling the burden more than any other place,” Bruce said.

Jones said he has been in discussions with federal Medicaid leaders.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get more reimbursements in with our state and federal dollars,” he said.

Dr. Lee England works at Lake Martin Community Hospital. England said he sends his patients to another hospital for MRI scans.

“Often times that patient gets absorbed by the system and doesn’t come back,” England said.

Alabama rural hospitals are also facing a shortage of doctors and nurses. Many times, England works an upwards of 72 hours at the hospital each week because there are not enough doctors.

Jones said part of the solution to the crisis is Medicaid expansion. The Kaiser Family Foundation said 37 states including Washington D.C. have expanded Medicaid.

“I think if you look at states historically who have expanded Medicaid, they have not seen economic problems," Jones said.

Alabama has not expanded Medicaid. When asked about it, a spokesperson for Gov. Kay Ivey sent this statement regarding Medicaid expansion:

“Governor Ivey is committed to exploring affordable options, which ensure that Alabamians in all 67 counties can have access to quality healthcare. The governor is a firm believer that bipartisan efforts are necessary to finding solutions for Alabama’s toughest challenges. She continues to have discussions with members on both sides of the aisle and says that all options remain on the table.”

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