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Rural hospital shutdowns force communities to take care of their own

• by Berkeley Lovelace Jr

The rates of rural hospital closures are the highest seen in the last few decades, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.

There has been a total of 83 hospital closures from January 2010 to January 2018 in rural areas across the United States, the NC RHRP's data shows.

Crystal Harris was at her Virginia home one winter afternoon when she received a 911 call.

As an unpaid volunteer of the Smith River Rescue Squad in Woolwine, a small town located in northern Patrick County, Harris needed to drop what she was doing and head to the nearest ambulance station, a trip that normally takes about 10 minutes.

"Then you would respond to the house, which could take anywhere around 15 minutes," Harris, the captain for advanced life support on the squad, told CNBC. If necessary, the rescue team would then take the patient to the nearest hospital, about 45 minutes to one hour east in Martinsville.

Harris could have taken the patient to the much closer 25-bed Pioneer Community Hospital of Patrick in Stuart, where she had been an employee before she retired.

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