Lack of rural healthcare hinders Alabama's economic development

The growing scarcity of healthcare facilities in rural Alabama is hindering a state effort to bring more jobs and business investment to those areas, al.com reported.

"If you don't have the healthcare locally, it's going to be extremely difficult to bring in industry," Dale Quinney, executive director of the Alabama Rural Health Association, told al.com.

Eight Alabama counties do not have a hospital and one of those counties doesn't have any doctors at all. Quinney said that 17 counties lack a dialysis clinic and 37 do not have a hospital with labor and delivery services. He blamed the lack of facilities on dwindling patient populations that make it difficult for healthcare providers to cover the gap between costs and reimbursements.

Views differ on whether that will change.

States that opt out of expanding Medicaid will increase financial pressures on rural healthcare, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported this week. Paradoxically, states without large urban populations have been those most likely to opt out, the paper reported.

Other experts argued recently that rural healthcare is stabilizing because of the technology and other initiatives introduced by the Affordable Care Act, including increased access to health insurance.

Meanwhile, the Aug. 30 closure of Charlton Memorial Hospital in Georgia was the third closure of a rural hospital in the state this year.

The Economic Development Association of Alabama, which is managing the effort to increase economic development in rural areas, says it will work with the Alabama Rural Health Association to expand healthcare services.

For more information:
- read the al.com article

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