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Hospital closing impacts Montezuma community | News

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Hospital closing impacts Montezuma community
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Earl Collins of Ideal didn't know that the Emergency Room in Montezuma was closed until he found himself in need of it in January.

"I couldn't urinate," he says. "So I had to get help." Collins had to get that help 30 miles south in Americus to treat his bladder infection.

The Flint River Hospital in Montezuma closed its Emergency Room last September, after sending out a letter last August saying the closure would "optimize reimbursements" for the hospital.

But since the closure, the Macon County EMS has had to staff another ambulance to handle longer trips to either Americus or Perry.

"Well it does put people at risk," says EMS Director Joe Weaver. He says instead of a 10 minute transport time, 30 to 35 minutes is the norm.

Collins says another time, when he had to call for help for relatives, both EMS trucks were out and he had to drive to Americus.

Since the closing, EMS records show the number of calls taken by E-911 jumped by almost 50% from 127 in September 2013 to 189 in December 2013.

The lack of an ER is also impacting pediatricians' offices, because of more limited access to lab results and treatments for conditions like asthma.

Peggy Pease, an Americus-based nurse practitioner who used to work in Montezuma says now, their office doesn't have some of the kind of IV medications that an ER might have.

At the county level, officials say they've had to spent around $400,000 in additional EMS expenses, which is almost a tenth of the small county's budget.

So far, EMS says there are no plans they're aware of to have a new ER put in soon.

"I think it would be great if the legislators could go into rural areas and build these hospital or fund them in some way or another because these people out here don't have health care, at least hospital-wise," says Weaver.

Follow 13WMAZ's Tom George on Twitter @thetomgeorge


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