After more than 40 years as Carroll County’s second largest medical care provider, administrators over McKenzie Regional Hospital announced last week that the hospital is closing down.
According to a press release from MRH, this will include discontinuing most patient services and closing the emergency department — all scheduled to be shut down by September 15 of this year.
The 45-bed hospital has notified the Tennessee Department of Health and will begin reducing new admissions in the coming weeks.
In the press release, MRH CEO Michael Morrical said that the closing reflects a national trend as small rural hospitals feel the impacts of reductions in federal funding, lower reimbursements from government and commercial insurers, and rising numbers of uninsured patients.
MRH, said Morrical, has struggled with declining patient volumes in recent years and has maintained an average daily census of just eight patients.
Morrical added that those patients currently receiving care at MRH will not be affected by the closing.
“We are fortunate to live in a community with numerous quality health care providers,” said MRH CEO Michael Morrical. “We will coordinate with local providers to assist with a smooth transition for patients, and we’ll work closely with our dedicated team to help in their personal transitions as well.”
Morrical said that MRH administrators have been meeting with hospital staff and physicians to discuss transition plans with approximately 200 employees to be affected by the closing.
MRH employees, said Morrical, will be provided with assistance to help them connect with other regional employers, adding that employees will continue to receive pay and benefits through September 29.
In regards to MRH’s facility and other physical assets, Baptist Memorial Health Care, which owns Baptist Memorial Hospital-Huntingdon, has entered into an agreement with Quorum Health Corporation, which owns MRH, to purchase MRH assets, including hospital buildings, land, equipment, and ambulance service vehicles and equipment.
Along with these purchases and other changes, Baptist has announced that it will be changing the name of the Huntingdon hospital to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Carroll County.
“When Quorum Health approached us about buying the assets of McKenzie Regional Hospital following Quorum’s decision to close the hospital, we considered how we could best serve the community and ensure continued access to health care for all of Carroll County, particularly McKenzie residents,” said Baptist CEO Jason Little in a recent press release.
Little added that Baptist will be partnering with McKenzie Medical Center to help provide McKenzie area residents with the healthcare they need.
“By partnering with McKenzie Medical Center, which already offers primary and urgent care to the community, we can focus on strengthening our existing presence in Carroll County and enhance the emergency, specialty, and surgical services we provide for all residents,” said Little.
“We are deeply saddened that McKenzie Regional Hospital is closing,” said Dr. Bryan Merrick, who heads up MMC along with Dr. Terry Colotta. “MMC and all satellite locations will continue the same quality care for our patients as we would for our families. Please be patient with us as we work through this process.”
Baptist will continue operating MRH’s outpatient diagnostic center and sleep center, both located on the MRH campus, according to Morrical.
MRH’s ambulance service will be transitioned over to Priority Ambulance, Baptist’s ambulance service partner, which will be providing ambulance service for all of Carroll County, including McKenzie.
McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland said she was saddened when she heard the news that MRH is closing.
“I speak for our entire community when I emphasize the heartbreak in losing our hospital, which has played a key role in McKenzie’s healthcare for 44 years,” said Holland. “Unfortunately, rural healthcare is changing as the trend is more toward regionalism. Our hospital is the sixth to close in West Tennessee over the past few years. The profitability challenges that rural hospitals face and the difficulty in attracting specialists is a never ending challenge for our small hospitals.”
Both Holland and Morrical pointed out that the Baptist’s 70-bed hospital in Huntingdon is only about 10 miles down the road from MRH’s campus, offering a wide range of services, including general surgery, cardiology, pain management, and radiology.
Henry County Medical Center in Paris, approximately 15 miles away, offers additional services like obstetrics, cancer care, and orthopedics.
“It has been our privilege to care for this community, and we are extremely grateful to our dedicated team of employees, nurses, physicians, volunteers, and board members for their tireless service to our patients and their families,” said Morrical. “Most of all, we are grateful to our neighbors and friends for allowing us to serve as your trusted health care resource for more than 40 years.”
Employees and patients express views on MRH closing
The announcement of the Sept. 15 closing of McKenzie Regional Hospital has sent shock waves throughout the community.
Several people conveyed their thoughts on the matter on Saturday.
• Katie Giddens, 31, of McKenzie, an employee of Dollar General Store there, said she is so sorry to hear this news.
“Every town needs a hospital,” she said. “It makes no sense.”
Her two daughters, Helaina, 11, and Chloey, 7, were both born at the hospital and she said that she has also used the emergency room as well.
• J.T. Lindsey, 87, of McKenzie, a former pharmacist, who once owned Lindsey’s Rexall Drugs, has lived in McKenzie since 1959 and recalls when the town had no hospital. He was proud when the town got one.
“It’s a bad situation,” he said. “What are we going to do in case of an emergency?”
• Nurses Donna Ferrell, 41, of Dresden and Annette Mason, of McKenzie, who have worked at the hospital for several years, say they have enjoyed their years caring for the patients there.
Ferrell has been a LPN for 14 years and had nine years at the hospital
“I was surprised about the closing,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard to bring up our patience census and quality care.”
Mason, a R.N., is the charge nurse from 7 to 7 on the day shift. She’s worked at the hospital for four years and has been a nurse for 18 years.
“I was surprised and sad,” she said. “There’s a lot of patients who rely on this hospital who will have to go further away for the treatment they need.”
The general census is about eight a day, but on Saturday there were 11 patients.
She said she would remain in the nursing profession.
The nurses in the department issued a statement saying they had appreciated the support of the community over the years.
• Dwayne Jamison, 88, of Huntingdon was staying with his wife who was a patient at the hospital on Saturday.
“I feel really bad about it,” he said. “We have used the emergency room a number of times. We’ll miss it for sure.”