Federal and state funding cuts, in addition to a sluggish economy, are hurting local organizations and the services they provide.
Representatives from Liberty Regional Medical Center, the senior center and others updated the Liberty County Commission on their status Thursday.
Liberty Regional Medical Center CEO Scott Kroell told commissioners the hospital is in decent shape financially, with more than $2 million in reserves, but that overall patient volume is down. However, LRMC is seeing more emergency room patients, he said.
Kroell said a lot of patients who are showing up in the emergency room have seemingly put off receiving routine medical care.
“Most of the time they don’t have the money to pay for treatment (for preventative care),” he said.
Kroell said many families are still struggling in a slow-to-recover economy.
He said the hospital has managed to bring expenses down, but has not been able to cut costs as fast as revenue has dwindled.
Kroell added LRMC has brought its bad debt down by aggressively collecting outstanding bills.
The CEO stressed LRMC’s continuing mission is to improve the community’s overall health and provide residents quality healthcare.
Senior Citizens Inc. executive director Patti Lyons discussed the Liberty County Senior Center and its programs.
The center provides seniors Meals on Wheels and adult daycare along with the center’s social and health-centered activities. The challenge is locating funds to keep the programs operating, Lyons said. Sequestration has adversely impacted senior programs, she said.
Sequestration has cut the Senior Citizens’ Meals on Wheels funding by nearly $80,000, according to seniorcitizens-inc.org.
“Currently, SCI prepares and delivers more than 3,500 home-delivered meals and an additional 700 meals to congregate sites each week in Chatham, Effingham, Bryan, Liberty and McIntosh counties,” SCI’s website states. “Nearly 600 people are on our waiting list to receive meals. Sequestration cuts will mean that more seniors in our community will become food insecure and those on the waiting list will not start receiving meals.”
A paper plate campaign to protest the cuts has been initiated nationwide, and a number of Liberty County seniors are participating, Lyons said.
She said seniors get four paper plates on which to write, in their own words, how they have been affected by cuts. These plates are then mailed to U.S. senators and representatives, including the area’s U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston. About 800 plates have been mailed so far, she said.
“Older adults are quiet, they stay at home, they behave themselves,” Lyons said. “People take it for granted that they need help. We’re turning them into rebels.”
Lyons said the adult daycare program, which benefits patients who may have had strokes or have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, has grown from operating two to three days a week.
“We’d like to be open five days a week,” she said.
Lyons said 16 adults attended the daycare program this past year, which was up from 10 the year before.