ATLANTA - Governor Nathan Deal, in partnership with the Department of Community Health, today announced three new proposals to improve rural access to health care.
"Rural hospitals are struggling financially and have been for many years; we have witnessed a handful of them close in recent times," Deal said.
"When they shut their doors, it's not only bad for health care access but also for the local economies. In many instances, a rural hospital is the largest employer in a community, and it's difficult to attract new jobs to an area lacking this key quality-of-life ingredient. These important reforms will help rural hospitals stay operational and continue providing at least the most essential services to their communities, rather than shutting down entirely."
Deal is implementing changes to the rules and regulations affecting licensure for hospitals. These modifications will permit rural hospitals to offer fewer services if they are in danger of closing or if they have closed within the past year.
These rural freestanding emergency departments will provide emergency services to stabilize and transfer patients to existing full service hospitals located no more than 35 miles away.
They could also offer, if they choose, elective outpatient surgery, basic OB/GYN services, including normal baby deliveries, and certain procedures that do not require an operating room, such as an endoscopy.
To increase the flow of communication between hospitals and the state, Deal is designating an employee within the Department of Community Health to serve as a point person for rural hospitals.
He will establish a Rural Hospitals Stabilization Committee to identify needs of the rural hospital community and provide potential solutions.
"I recognize the critical need for hospital infrastructure in rural Georgia, as these resources save lives and maintain our communities," said Deal. "These communities should not have to go without crucial services, many of them lifesaving. I am confident that these proposals will increase communication between stakeholders and ensure that every Georgian is reasonably close to a health care provider should a need or emergency arise.