Alabama Health

APR

“I hurt so bad, and I just stayed in bed like, for years I stayed in bed. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t wait on myself.”

We’re sitting at the dining table with Fay. She asked us not to use her real name. During our visit, one of her favorite songs plays in the background on an old portable CD player. Fay is seventy two and following her first ever mammogram in the year 2000, she found she had breast cancer.

“And then they told me I had the worst kind," says Faye. "And, I said ‘cancer? What is the worst kind? It’s bad no matter you look at it.”

Stan Ingold / Alabama Public Radio

All year long the APR news team has been looking at rural health across the state. One of the major problems is that rural residents lack access to medical care. A big reason for this is a lack of doctors. However, there is an effort underway to try to address the issue. The University of Alabama has something called the rural medical scholars program and it is bringing the next generation of doctors who will be practicing in rural Alabama.

APR

Advocates working to fix problems with rural health care say Alabama is ground zero nationally. Studies say Alabama has the highest infant mortality rate in the U.S. The state also leads the nation for diabetes. Alabama is also home to Gadsden which had the lowest life expectancy in the nation in 2016. Despite all this, rural hospitals in the state receive among the lowest reimbursements nationally from Medicare. That’s blamed for eighty percent of Alabama’s hospitals that are operating in the red.

A hospital serving one of Alabama's poorest and most rural counties is scheduled to close by month's end.

George Alford, board chairman of Camden's J. Paul Jones Hospital, tells WSFA-TV that the hospital is losing $1 million annually. He says the hospital struggles with falling population, poverty and cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.