County Commission President David Carrington said ending inpatient care would give the hospital more funding for other services. “I think there are alternate ways inpatient care can be provided in Jefferson County without the county running an inpatient hospital,” Carrington said. But when a state legislator proposed a bill last spring that would have forced the hospital to close, one researcher estimated that ending inpatient care at Cooper Green Hospital would increase costs at other area hospitals:
[C]losing the county’s financially troubled safety-net hospital, could drive up health care costs as Cooper Green’s disproportionate share of Medicaid and uninsured patients flock to other hospitals’ emergency rooms, according to Eric Ford, a public health professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
It could also lead to dramatic changes in the area’s overall health care system, he said.
“It won’t be good for either the customers or the organizations in the short term,” he said.
About 65 patients are in the hospital each day, and it is uncertain where they would go if Jefferson County commissioners vote next week to end inpatient services. And in April, Mark Wilson, CEO of the Jefferson County Health Department, said Cooper Green could be forced to close its emergency room, which treats about 36,000 people a year, if the hospital had to end its inpatient care.
While county officials threaten to endanger the local health care system, the state legislature has refused to reinstate the county’s occupational tax that could help officials avoid cutting an additional $40 million from the county budget.