In Tennessee, a rural hospital turns to crowdfunding to stay afloat; fired staffers protest the campaign

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One rural hospital is looking to a crowdfunding platform to raise needed money.

Many rural providers are in dire financial straits: More than 75% of rural hospitals in the U.S. have closed since 2010, and the impacts of closure can be devastating on poor, rural communities. Some have shut down labor and delivery units, while others have to divert certain emergency department patients.

Now one cash-strapped Tennessee facility is turning to crowdfunding to stay afloat.

Leaders at the 25-bed Copper Basin Medical Center launched a GoFundMe campaign 10 days ago in hopes of raising $100,000 to put toward the hospital’s debts. So far, it’s raised $1,400 of its goal.

The hospital is the only one located in Polk County, Tennessee, according to the fundraising page, and is the closest medical facility for a number of recreational tourist facilities. Its financial issues are such that earlier this month it temporarily suspended inpatient care. Its emergency department and outpatient services remain open.

RELATED: The devastating impact on a poor community when a rural hospital closes its doors

CEO Dan Johnson told STAT that he hopes the fundraiser will succeed. He said he’s confident that local residents who have relied on the hospital’s services will step up to help.

“I’m a positive thinker,” he told the publication. “There should be healthcare in this community. There’s a definite need for this hospital.”

But the fundraising campaign is not without controversy, according to the article. The hospital notes on its GoFundMe page that the fundraiser follows staff cuts, and STAT reports that some Copper Basin employees are actively encouraging people through social media not to donate because staffers who were laid off were given just three days' notice that the cuts were coming.

Tracy Rhodes Robinson, R.N., whose position was eliminated during the layoffs, told the publication that she was upset with how the hospital has treated its employees. Those who lost their jobs had their insurance terminated, and some are still owed paychecks they may never receive.

Hospital staffers addressed the negative response to the fundraising campaign on the GoFundMe page, requesting that people who don’t support the cause “refrain … from bringing us down any further.”