Pickens County Medical Center

By WVUA 23 Reporter Kinsley Centers

Pickens County Medical Center employees say they were left blindsided Monday by their employer’s announcement of closure at the end of the week. For many, their notification of the decision came not from the hospital itself but from news stations or social media postings.

Mary Walker is an LPN who’s worked at the hospital for more than 40 years. On Monday she came to work and discovered her job ends Friday. It’s something she said none of the employees saw coming.

“I’m just heartbroken,” Walker said. “It has just floored me this morning when I first saw it because when I left here Friday we knew nothing about this. I don’t know when the meeting took place or when they decided to do this. The employees were not kept informed, so we knew nothing.”

Employees arriving at work Monday learned of their fate at the same time as the news began circulating in the news and on social media. Many workers said they found out not through their employer, but on Facebook or Twitter.

“You post it on Facebook before you even call a meeting and tell the employees,” Walker said. “That’s very devastating, and I think I speak for every employee here.”

Over the last 10 years 120, rural hospitals have closed across the nation.

Carrollton Mayor Mickey Walker said about 130 people will lose their jobs Friday. That’s devastating for the employees’ families and Pickens County as a whole, he said.

“If that don’t affect your heart then you don’t got a heartbeat, because all the people up here we know the people that work there and our heart goes out to them,” Mickey Walker said.

In the news release, which the hospital dated Feb. 28 but did not disseminate until March 2, the hospital suggested it will work with other potential employers to find employees jobs elsewhere. Existing patients will be either discharged or transferred no later than March 6.

The nearest hospitals for Pickens County residents are now at least 30 away.

Resident Gary Shelton said he came to the hospital Monday to sign up for health services, but found his trip was wasted instead.

Now, Shelton said he’s concerned for residents who find themselves in need of immediate help.

“I think of all the emergency cases that have come here who couldn’t have waited to go to Tuscaloosa, to Northport or to Columbus, and wouldn’t have gone because of the distance and the possible cost,” Shelton said.

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones sent the following statement regarding the closure:

“This is a real loss for the Pickens County community, and my prayers are with all the folks who have lost their jobs or the access to health care they relied on. This should be yet another a wakeup call that it’s past time to take action to save Alabama’s hospitals. My team and I have been working closely with other members of the congressional delegation to find long-term solutions to help rural hospitals like Pickens County Medical Center stay open, but there is a clear step our state leaders could take that would help: expanding Medicaid. I sincerely hope that no other community has to suffer their hospital closing its doors because of our inability to put partisan differences aside and work together to save our rural hospitals.”

WVUA 23 reached out to Pickens County Medical Center Monday, but was told hospital administration is not speaking to the media.

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