This year, we celebrate the Power of Rural Hospitals on Thursday, November 19. Alabama’s 53 rural hospitals always deserve to be celebrated, but now more than ever, our communities have seen the benefits of having a rural hospital close to home. The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the way we live our daily lives, but it has not changed the powerful role rural hospitals play in the health care infrastructure of our state. If anything, it’s made us realize even more just how critical they are.
Alabama’s rural hospitals have shown their power by stepping up in the community. As the rest of the state began the process of shutting down, our hospital staff put on their masks and went to work. Alabama’s rural hospitals treated many COVID patients close to home, helping ease the burden on patients and their families and helping avoid overcrowding in the larger urban hospitals. They have served as testing sites since the pandemic began, but more than that, they have been a community resource keeping their citizens informed and their doors open.
Imagine if your rural hospital had not been there. Who would have administered the test, cared for your loved one, or stabilized patients during this crisis? Thankfully, we did not have to find out because our rural hospital heroes answered the call. COVID-19 has taught us how important it is to have an operational, fully-functioning hospital in rural Alabama communities. Nearly half of Alabama hospitals are considered rural and serve the hardworking Alabamians who live in these areas. They treat more than 1.8 million patients a year and provide healthcare in your backyard, instead of down the interstate.
The 11,144 employees who work at Alabama’s rural hospitals have made the sacrifice to care for you during this pandemic. So, join me in thanking them on Nov. 19 as we celebrate the Power of Alabama Rural Hospitals.
Dr. Don Williamson is president of the Alabama Hospital Association.