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A cruel twist: ER that treated south Georgia storm victims to close

Adel - It seemed a cruel coincidence: Just days before a deadly tornado killed seven people in one trailer park, health officials here announced they were soon shuttering the local emergency room because of mounting financial losses.

The Cook Medical Center, located in the heart of the small country town of Adel, wound up treating 15 victims of last week's violent storms. And many here want the hospital's parent company to reconsider the decision, which would mean residents would have to drive 20 to 30 miles to neighboring counties to get treatment.



» RELATED: The emergency at Georgia’s rural hospitals

“People in our community need emergency services and the tornado proved that,” said Lee Joiner Jr., who owns the Whatchadilly Smoothie & Juice Shop in downtown Adel. “What if this happens again and we don’t have an ER? We need to fully take care of people here in this community. Lives could be at stake."

The hospital's parent company said Cook Medical was losing about $2.6 million annually, mostly through the emergency room. It's far from the only rural system struggling: At least eight of the state's 69 rural hospitals have already shuttered since 2001, and 21 others have had significant budget problems.



In Cook, local leaders hope the hospital will reconsider after last week's devastation. Chase Daughtrey, a local probate judge who chairs the hospital's board of trustees, said the parent company needs to "take another look" at the decision now.

“I don’t know if they’ll reconsider," he said, "but we’re going to ask them to consider it more by the human aspect than the numbers aspect.”

Read more: South Georgia ER that saved lives during tornado faces shutdown

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.