RMC Jacksonville has stopped admitting new patients and reduced emergency care in preparation for the hospital’s closing at the end of June.
Regional Medical Center in Anniston, owner of the Jacksonville hospital, stopped accepting inpatient admissions Friday, Kate Van Meter, spokeswoman for RMC, wrote in a Monday email to The Star. Also, while the emergency room will remain open until the hospital closes, because of reduced services, emergency care patients are being moved to other hospitals as soon as possible or diverted to other facilities before they arrive in Jacksonville, Van Meter wrote.
RMC announced in May that it would close its Jacksonville campus June 30 and donate the building to Jacksonville State University for its nursing department to use. RMC officials have said the closing is needed because the hospital was losing money.
The 104-bed, acute care hospital has a 24-hour emergency room and more than 140 employees. RMC Jacksonville is set to be the 12th hospital to close in the state since 2011, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.
Van Meter wrote that as part of closing preparations, RMC has requested that ambulance services take emergency patients to other hospitals’ emergency rooms whenever possible.
“However, if a patient arrives at RMC Jacksonville in need of emergency care, the emergency department continues to be staffed and equipped to stabilize and provide emergency services,” Van Meter wrote. “Upon conclusion of stabilization and emergency treatment, if an inpatient admission is necessary, appropriate transfer to another hospital facility will be implemented.”
The emergency room will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on June 30.
Van Meter added that the hospital’s inpatient detoxification service had been moved to Stringfellow Memorial Hospital in Anniston, operated by RMC.
Meanwhile, the hospital’s geriatric psychiatry service will soon be moved to RMC’s main campus in Anniston. The transfer of the geriatric psychiatry beds is currently being addressed with the State Health Planning and Development Agency and the Alabama Department of Public Health, Van Meter wrote.
Van Meter noted that the RMC human resources department was still working with Jacksonville employees to help them find possible jobs in the RMC health system.
“We will also do whatever we can to help them find jobs with other companies, if possible,” Van Meter wrote.
While RMC has prepared to close the hospital, some Jacksonville officials have taken early steps to save or replace it.
Jamie Etheredge, chairman of the Jacksonville Industrial Development Board, said Monday that representatives from St. Vincent’s Health System in Birmingham are expected to survey the Jacksonville and Piedmont area June 19 for a possible new hospital or emergency care clinic.
“They’re interested enough to come look and put boots on the ground in Jacksonville and near Piedmont,” Etheredge said.
In a called industrial board meeting last week, Etheredge and Rep. K. L. Brown of Jacksonville said they’d been in early talks with St. Vincent’s CEO about the health system possibly replacing the hospital.
“St. Vincent’s CEO seemed to agree wholeheartedly that a town with a population of 20,000 or more, which we have when we have JSU students, definitely needs some type of health care facility,” Brown said Monday.
This wouldn’t be the first time St. Vincent’s has partnered with a community to build a medical facility.
After Chilton County’s only hospital closed in 2013, the county partnered with St. Vincent’s to build a new hospital, said Allen Caton, chairman of the Chilton County Commission. About 80 percent of the voters in a county referendum there passed a 1-cent sales tax to help build and support the new hospital, which has been open for two years, Caton said. The tax collects around $3 million a year for the hospital, he said.
“When the hospital closed, we had a commission meeting that week ... you could not get in our courthouse ... it was standing-room only,” Caton said of the public interest in keeping a hospital in the county. “This was a community effort.”
Danne Howard, executive vice president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said even more state hospitals would be closed today if communities such as Chilton County hadn’t worked together.
“There have been three or four local taxes passed throughout the state in the last two years to support hospitals because local communities understand the importance of supporting health care,” Howard said.