A Eufaula hospital closed its doors Monday and immediately reopened the next day as an urgent care clinic. 

Ann Ong, whose husband is the principal owner of Epic Medical Center, said the facility, which “is not functioning as a hospital at all,” is being shared by two separate medical care providers. She said space has been leased to Cardiac Clinic of Muskogee, which along with CCOM Medical Group Clinic will provide a variety of services from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. 

Epic Medical Center, which occupies an 18-acre campus, has served McIntosh County for more than 35 years under the direction of various owners and administrations.

Eufaula is a town of 2,900 people until the summer when it swells to more than 10,000, 

Pam Rossi, executive director of the Eufaula Chamber of Commerce, said the cessation of traditional hospital services was somewhat expected due to changes within the health care industry. Rural hospitals, experts say, were at an even greater risk. 

“We just feel bad that we don’t have that service here anymore,” Rossi said. “We kind of saw it coming several years ago and hung in there, but we know that things are changing in the health care industry.” 

Andy Fosmire, vice president of rural health for the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said the conversion of Epic Medical Center from a hospital to CCOM Medical Group Clinic amounts to the third rural Oklahoma hospital to close this year.  Sayre Memorial Hospital, he said, closed in February, and Frederick General Hospital shut its doors in March.

Rural hospitals are expected to close or reduce services dramatically, Fosmire said. He referenced a study conducted by iVantage Health Analytics, which compared financial profiles of hospitals that closed between 2010 and 2015 with the profiles of all other rural hospitals in the United States that projected the closure of 273 rural hospitals nationwide — 15 of those were located in Oklahoma. 

The analytics firm updated its financial data earlier this year along with projected hospital closures. The new data show more than 600 rural hospitals across the country match the financial profiles of the previously closed hospitals, 41 of which are located in Oklahoma.

Rural hospital closing are a result of many things, Fosmire said. He cited the 2 percent cut in sequestration at the federal level, bad debt reimbursement at the federal level, downgrading of cost-plus payments, and provider payment cuts by the state’s Medicaid program. 

“A hospital is the only business around that when someone shows up at the door, they can’t refuse service,” Fosmire said. Rural hospitals also tend to have older, poorer and sicker patients, and many are uninsured. 

Reach Mark Hughes at (918) 684-2908 or mhughes@muskogeephoenix.com.

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