Local hospital closures leaves people without access to emergency medical care
It's an issue across Tennessee: rural hospital closings are making it harder for thousands of people to access healthcare.
Families are forced to drive hours from their homes just to see a doctor.
We learned it's a problem impacting people all over the Tennessee Valley.
Rural communities like Polk County have felt the impact of healthcare changes over the years.
Ducktown Mayor Doug Collins said the Copper Basin Medical Center closed nearly two years ago.
"Right now we're just in limbo trying to figure out what to do with it, whether to sell it, lease it, any interested party would be great," Collins said.
The closing of the hospital left thousands of people without access to emergency medical care.
Sonja Daniel lives in Ducktown. She said she worries about what could happen when seconds matter.
"If you can't get emergency healthcare here, you might as just move here to die," Daniel said.
It's a reality for people across the Tennessee Valley.
Data from the Tennessee Department of Health shows 5 hospitals, including Copper Basin Medical Center, have closed across the state since 2012.
The hospitals that have stayed open have faced significant changes.
In 2015, Parkridge West shut down its inpatient medical services at its facility in Marion County.
In 2013, Starr Regional Medical Center closed its inpatient services in McMinn County.
These changes forced people to drive long hours for healthcare.
For people in Polk County, the closest emergency care is at least 45 minutes away or across state lines, which can be complicated with insurance companies.
If people can't make those trips, some go without the care they need.
"We need emergency healthcare," Daniel said. "We need a walk-in clinic here, there's no walk in. If they aren't going to allow us to have a hospital than for God's sake could we have a walk-in clinic."
Mayor Collins said city and officials met with big named hospitals about the possibility of opening an emergency care clinic but no plans have been made.
For the time being, residents will have to keep making the long drive for care.