Letter to the Editor

Alabama’s rural communities are great places to live and work and are home to 40 percent of the state’s population. In fact, 53 of Alabama’s 67 counties are considered rural.

Alabama is also home to 51 rural hospitals, facilities that are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They deliver an impressive array of services, including emergency, primary, chronic, and long-term care, and many offer home health care, hospice care and assisted living, along with other services. They treat more than 560,000 patients in their emergency departments every year and deliver approximately 6,500 babies annually.

Rural hospitals not only contribute to the health and wellness of their local residents, but also to the overall strength of the community’s economy. Hospitals are usually one of the largest employers in their counties. In fact, nearly 15,000 people are directly employed by Alabama’s rural hospitals, and every hospital job creates additional jobs in the local area. Fourteen percent of total employment in rural areas is attributed to the health care sector.

On Nov. 16, we will celebrate National Rural Health Day, and on behalf of the Alabama Hospital Association, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of men and women employed by our rural hospitals. They are neighbors helping their neighbors, hard-working individuals who strive to ensure that every Alabamian receives the right care, at the right place, and at the right time.

Rural hospitals across the country are facing many challenges, and Alabama’s hospitals are no exception. A high uninsured rate and a population with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, coupled with lower-than-average reimbursement rates have created a fragile health care system, especially in rural communities. Since 2011, six rural hospitals have closed, and changes currently being considered in Montgomery and Washington D.C. continue to threaten the viability of access to care in rural Alabama.

Rural hospitals are a tremendous asset to our state’s economy, to the communities they serve, to the patients they care for and to the people they employ. They are a vital part of Alabama’s health care infrastructure, and we are committed to their future.

Donald E. Williamson, MD
Alabama Hospital Association
500 North Eastern Blvd.
Montgomery, AL 36117
(800) 489-2542