A rural Mississippi hospital is in need of 5-million dollars quickly or there could be layoffs or possible closure. Democrats in the legislature are warning that this is just the beginning of troubles for rural hospitals across the state.
Montfort-Jones hospital in Kosciusko has been running deficits for months, due in part to building improvements and large amounts of uncompensated care
Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a bill to allow Atalla County, which owns the facility, to issue 5-million dollars in bonds to finalize a lease agreement with Jackson-based Baptist Health Systems.
The hospital is in the district of Representative Jason White who says prior to this deal, closing the facility remained a possibility.
"I was worried about it until Baptist came forward and stepped up to the plate and said 'We see this as a viable community. We see this as a viable option. We think it fits well in our system of hospitals and clinics'," White said.
Democrats on the committee pounced claiming it is the state's refusal to expand Medicaid, which is a provision of the federal health care reform law, that has put Montfort-Jones and other rural hospitals in a financial bind.
Representative Steve Holland of Plantersville says they have warned the legislature that not expanding Medicaid could force hospitals could close.
"I don't want it to happen. personally, I love our hospitals. I have always been a promoter of good health, better health, more accessible health care. But sometimes you have got to draw a corpse through the city streets for the people to realize that there is something dead and something needed to be done," Holland said.
An estimated one-in-four patients of Montfort-Jones have no ability to pay.
Family income in Atalla County is below the state average, with nearly 30-percent of people living in poverty.