Rolling Fork hospital closes emergency room

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 25, 2003

ROLLING FORK Emergency services were suspended at the hospital here Monday, meaning a 48-mile trip north or south for patients needing immediate medical help.

“We closed because we didn’t have liability insurance,” Sharkey-Issaquena Community Hospital administrator Jerry Keever said, adding the ER would reopen if coverage could be purchased. “Everything else remains the same,” he said of other hospital functions.

The hospital serves the 6,580 residents in Sharkey County and the 2,274 residents in Issaquena County. Reciprocal of America, a Virginia-based insurance company, notified the hospital in late January that it would not renew the policy.

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Keever said ambulances serving the area are on contract from Delta Regional Medical Center in Greenville, but would take patients to the nearest hospital with equipment to treat patients’ conditions. Rolling Fork is 48 miles from Greenville and the same distance from River Region Medical Center in Vicksburg.

“What the patients want is quality care, and they’re still being provided with that here,” Keever said. “The only difference is not having an emergency room.”

Keever said a paramedic and an emergency medical technician are on duty for the most severe cases.

“We worked to build a contingency plan if this happened,” he said. “And those plans are working.”

He said the hospital intends to reopen the emergency room but did not know when. Plans last week for the hospital to acquire the liability insurance through another company fell through, and Keever said he was still working to find a carrier.

“You have to look at the company’s rating and the rates,” he said. He said he has received offers for policies costing up to four times the $60,000 the hospital paid last year.

“It’s not a matter of affordability, it’s finding an insurance company willing to write in Mississippi,” Keever said.

Helen Herman, a Rolling Fork resident who also worked in the business office of the hospital for several years said the community is in need of the emergency service.

“We need to get it open,” she said. “It has helped a lot of people and saved a lot of lives.”

Beatrice Denson, a retired teacher and Rolling Fork resident, said not having emergency facilities in the area scares her.

“I hate to lose it,” she said. “The service has been great.”

Delta Care Rural Health Clinic, one of the town’s two outpatient medical offices, closed its doors Feb. 15 for insurance reasons. Employees were packing boxes and transferring medical records on Monday.

Rolling Fork resident Mamie Sherman, at the remaining clinic Monday, said the emergency room will be missed.

The 13-year resident of Rolling Fork said the closing “is sad because we’re going to need it.”

State Sen. Mike Chaney, whose district includes all of Warren and Issaquena counties, said he is disappointed the hospital closed its ER. “I’m trying everything I can to help them,” he said. “I committed to that three weeks ago and I’m still trying.”

One bill that would create a state-backed insurance pool and help other hospitals has passed the Senate and House and is in conference.