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Pickens hospital to close; 17th to shut down in 10 years

CARROLLTON, Ala. (AP) — Pickens County Medical Center, located in rural west Alabama near the Mississippi line, will become the latest state hospital to shut down when it closes for good on Friday, news outlets reported.

The Pickens County Health Care Authority announced the shutdown in a news release that said the hospital’s finances were no longer sustainable. It cited too few patients, reduced federal funding, and large numbers of uninsured patients.

The shutdown of the hospital, which opened in 1979, will be a twofold blow since residents will lose both their closest option for health care and jobs. About 200 people work at the hospital, making it one of Pickens County’s largest employers, according to its website.

The shutdown is only the latest in a wave of hospital closings nationwide. The Alabama Hospital Association said 17 privately run hospitals have closed in the state over the last decade, and only one of those reopened.

Rural hospitals are particularly at risk, the group said, with about 90 percent of them operating in the red.

“There are many reasons for the closures, but the bottom line is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for hospitals in rural areas to cover the costs of care with rising numbers of uninsured individuals, federal cuts to Medicare and threats to other programs that have aided these hospitals in serving their communities,” said Dr. Don Williamson, president of the association.

Carrollton is located about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of Birmingham. The city of roughly 1,000 people is about halfway between Tuscaloosa and Columbus, Mississippi, which both have hospitals. Pickens County has a population of about 20,200.

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