All across the country, rural hospitals are shutting down at an alarming rate. In neighboring Nye County, residents in and around Tonopah found themselves without medical care when Nye Regional Medical Center (NRMC) shut their doors on Friday, Aug. 21 at noon.
In a press release from the medical center to all parties involved, Wayne C. Allen, C.E.O. stated, “NRMC has struggled financially for the past several years. The hospital operations cannot be sustained any longer with expenses greater than revenues. In an effort to save the hospital we have tried to arrange partnerships/affiliations with other health care organizations. These efforts have been unsuccessful due to our small size and remote location.”
Richard Munger, Administrator and CEO of Mt. Grant General Hospital (MGGH) understands the financial burdens and medical need of rural hospitals. He deals with the issue on a daily basis.
Munger told the Independent-News that with the closing of NRMC, people have already begun to call the facility to arrange for medical care.
NRMC is 103 miles from MGGH and the closest facility for any medical needs. Proactively, Munger has already been in contact with Nye County Emergency Management to assist with any needs that arrive. Nye County and MGGH plan to work together with Mineral County ambulances to help transport patients to Hawthorne for medical care.
For rural hospitals, keeping staff can be a challenge for those not used to a rural setting. With the closing of NRMC and the overflow to MGGH, Munger knows that he will need to increase staff, but doing so is not as easy as it seems.
“We are trying to find staff ourselves. We too are a little short,” Munger said.
Down more than one doctor, Munger said that the hospital is in need of a physician’s assistant and a doctor.
“We are down [staff]. It is kind of all over. I’ve been calling around and it seems that everyone is short’ he said.
When asked why the shortage all around he said, “With ObamaCare, there are more people insurance therefore more demand on clinic time, family practice and internal medicine type. There are just many more people insured. More and more now, they want appointments in the clinic or a family practice setting instead of just coming to the emergency room.”
The closing of the facility came as a surprise to Munger who was notified on Thursday, Aug. 20 of the closure.
With the closure of one hospital, many resident may feel the concern that MGGH will follow suit. Munger was adamant that MGGH will not be closing.
Nye County Emergency Management has executed some procedures to help with the impact of NRMC closing. They have been in contact with local officials regarding services; contacted Life Guard Air Ambulance who has brought an additional plane onto its fleet; they have reached out to Nevada and California counties to meet their ambulances half way to cut down on patient transport times. Included in that plan are: Battle Mountain, Banner-Churchill, Esmeralda, Goldfield, Beatty, Bishop and Hawthorne. Nye County is also in negotiations with Humboldt General Hospital in Winnemucca for additional mutual aid ambulance crews.
In the closing paragraph from NRMC announcing the closure, Allen went on to say, “This is a tragic loss for the population served by our hospital. This is a decision that will ultimately jeopardize the health and wellbeing of our community and surrounding areas.”