FAYETTE COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Rural hospitals are an important lifeline for people who live outside major cities, but over the years some have become at risk for closure or have had to reduce services.

St. Mark’s Medical Center has become the latest victim in this ongoing struggle to operate rural hospitals.

According to a press release from St. Mark’s, the governing board voted unanimously to pursue becoming a Rural Emergency Hospital, which would keep the hospital open and serve the community with modified services.

The Rural Emergency Hospital is designated to maintain access to emergency critical outpatient services in communities that may not be able to financially support or sustain a community hospital, according to the press release.

Services closing include inpatient services, surgical services, orthopedic care, post-acute rehab, ambulatory care and speech therapy. 

St. Mark’s Medical Center will still offer 24/7 emergency services, pharmacy services, cardiac rehab, lab work, x-rays and imaging, mammography and therapy for physical, occupational and respiratory needs.

“For major care going to Austin is not out of the question, but on a long-term basis if we don’t have the hospital here it is going to put all our citizens in problems,” said Fayette County resident Bill Koenig.

The press release quotes St. Mark’s board chair Dudley Piland, “For the decade that I have served on the St. Mark’s Board, we have struggled to make ends meet, including considering bankruptcy on more than one occasion.”

John Wied, who lives in La Grange says the decision to cut services is not right and now the community will suffer.

“You say, hey mom, you are going to have to go to Houston or Austin to the hospital and they would rather just stay home and take their chances,” said Wied. Wied says he wants to go to a place where he knows his care team and they know him and that is the draw at a rural hospital.

La Grange Mayor Jan Dockery says she was shocked to hear services would be cut and is now looking into ways to make sure their hospital doesn’t disappear altogether.

“A lot of times you can’t just jump in your car and drive down to Houston and depending on the severity of your illness, and you may not have family to commute you to and from it makes a big difference.”

KXAN also reached out to St. David’s HealthCare who is a clinical affiliate with St. Mark’s Medical Center.

“St. Mark’s Medical Center has been a clinical affiliate of St. David’s HealthCare since 2011, providing patients at St. Mark’s Medical Center with access to a higher level of care within the St. David’s HealthCare system when needed. As St. Mark’s Medical Center transitions to a Rural Emergency Hospital with critical emergency and select outpatient services, St. David’s HealthCare will continue to provide comprehensive medical care to any patient who needs it.”- St. David’s HealthCare