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Clayton County hospital files for bankruptcy | News

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Clayton County hospital files for bankruptcy
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RIVERDALE, Ga. (WXIA) -- After struggling financially for many years, the only major hospital in Clayton County has declared bankruptcy.

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But it plans to stay afloat.

Southern Regional Medical Center handles 60,000 emergency room visits a year, a quarter of which come from uninsured patients. It is that burden that left Southern Regional hanging on financially.

The only way to survive? Go bankrupt.

"This would be the biggest hospital to close in Georgia," said Andy Miller, editor and CEO of Georgia Health News.

For a while, leaders at Southern Regional Medical Center felt they might have to close, due to debt in the millions among its largest creditors. That debt rose recently because of the hospital's rising number of uninsured patients -- and shrinking number of patients with insurance.

"We see people that just don't make enough money to afford it," said hospital president/CEO Kim Ryan. "They're one illness away, one injury away, from having to come here to a hospital to get care."

Miller says, in this state, Southern Regional is not alone.

"If you have one in five adults without coverage, that's gonna weigh on every hospital in the state, not just Southern Regional," Miller said. "If something happened and this hospital closed, they would go other places and flood their emergency rooms."

The issue has affected hospitals both urban and rural. It's what, Miller thinks, will ultimately force Georgia lawmakers to reconsider expanding Medicaid, which many states have done but Gov. Nathan Deal has firmly opposed.

"It would be a great new stream for these hospitals that are struggling," Miller said.

In the meantime, Southern Regional is counting on a new buyer to take over. Prime Healthcare, a non-profit out of California known for helping struggling hospitals, has expressed interest in this one.

"Their mission is to save hospitals, save employees, and save patients," said Ryan.

"We believe that that will happen."

Declaring bankruptcy gives Southern Regional a roughly 2-3 month window to sell itself to the highest bidder. They believe that bidder will be Prime.

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