Lack of hospitals in Tennessee concerns rural communities

Right behind me is a hospital, but it’s empty. Just like a dozen other hospitals across Tennessee.

Beginning in 2014 rural hospitals in Tennessee started to disappear.

Gibson, Haywood, Mcnairy, Fayette, Coffee, Marion, Polk, McMinn, Clay, Fentress, Knox, Hamlett, and Carroll counties have all been affected by hospital closures due to the failure to expand medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in 2015.

“The loss of a hospital here in Brownsville, Tennessee was a major blow for our community", says city of Brownsville mayor, Williams Rawls.

That is over 14 hospitals gone across the state.

As coronavirus spreads residents in these towns are asking how they will get help.

Most have to drive 30 or more minutes to the nearest hospital.

Rawls adds, “Most of our patients are being transported there or people have to drive there. So, in this ever changing environment once again we are looking at a new challenge.”

City of Brownsville Mayor William Rawls started a healthy moves initiative after the closing of the hospital to encourage residents to stay healthy.

But he says he hopes their closed hospital can be used to help during this pandemic.

"Potentially I think it could be used for drive thru testing for triages in testing. If we get to a point where we are at mitigation level three, where we are running out of beds in our community hospitals, then of course we will look at all options", says Rawls.

Mayor Rawls says he wants the community to continue washing their hands and practice social distancing. In Haywood county, for 39 News, I’m Imani Williams.

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