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      Rural hospital struggles force layoffs/furloughs at Pickens Co. Medical Center

      Pickens County Medical Center. (abc3340.com)
      {}{}{} In West Alabama, reduced funding and tougher admissions is causing pain for rural hospitals.{} Pickens County Medical Center has laid off 14 workers and furloughed 13 managers.{} "Some came from nursing.{} Some came from the ancillary services such as radiology and some came from over head departments, " said PMC director Wayne McElroy. {}{}{} He says the layoffs and furloughs were a last resort.{} McElroy cites a reduction in medicaid and medicare funding since the state decided not to expand those under the Affordable Healthcare Act.{} He also says admitting a patient into the hospital is tougher.{} "The most impacted are those that are most in need in our community," he says.{}{}{} Barbara McDonald and her husband would fall into that category.{} "We have to have it [hospital] because I have to have a lot of blood tests done," say McDonald.{} The nearest hospital would be 45 miles in any direction.{}{}{} Pickens County Medical Center says the layoffs will save the hospital about $855,000 dollars a year.{} It's in good condition right now, but the hospital is seeing a 35-percent drop in admissions.{} The intensive care unit has shut down.{}{}{} Still, McDavid says the hospital has excellent medical services that people should take advantage of.{} "I think they should because this hospital is a good hospital.{} They have good doctors and nurses and they get to you as fast as they can."{}{}{}{} Hospital officials believe Pickens County Medical Center will survive.{} But, they do need more patients to utilize the hospital.{}"We're going to have to use the healthcare services that we have in this community or we're going to lose those services," said Director McElroy.{}{} Pickens County commissioners will meet in the coming weeks to discuss how it can help sustain hospital services.{} There's a similar situation in Fayette.{} There have not been any hospital layoffs there, yet...but, city council will meet June 10th as a proactive step.