A Houston, Mississippi hospital is being forced to close its emergency room due to a lack of funds available to run the 24-hour medical center. The hospital, which serves the rural region of Chicksaaw county and its surrounding areas, will instead open a new medical clinic to fill the gap in available medical services. However, local residents have reported that they are concerned about the limitations of the new clinic’s hours, as well as the increased distance to an emergency room.
Trace Regional Hospital will close its ER on September 8, 2014 and open a medical clinic with shorter hours to save on operational costs. This new clinic will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, but residents have complained that this leaves the community with no immediate access to medical care for overnight emergencies. The next closest ER is reportedly located at the North Mississippi Medical Center in Pontotoc, Mississippi, an additional 30 minute drive from Trace Regional Hospital.
Some state leaders have linked the closure of Mississippi’s emergency rooms to the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Car Act. This potential effect has been seen as especially problematic because of the many state residents who lack reliable health care. While other states have often been able to fill these gaps in medical services with urgent care centers and other facilities, these have been less popular in rural areas like Chicksaaw County.
“Urgent care centers are better for non emergency issues such as minor colds and flus, strains, and other issues. Usually patients can get in and out faster with less cost involved. Urgent care centers have the ability to treat many of the same things emergency rooms treat, but at a fraction of the cost” said Kirsten Saint Clair, Business Development at Imediate Clinic.
Currently, it is impossible to estimate the true effect the loss of the emergency room will have on the communities surrounding Trace Regional Hospital. Despite resident complaints, it is extremely likely that the new medical clinic will be able to provide adequate care for immediate medical complaints. However, when the clinic is closed, the additional 30 minutes drive may be the defining point of a community’s isolation.