Women needing mammography services in Bourbon County and surrounding areas can once again schedule appointments for the procedure close to home. As part of the transition of services from Mercy Health System to the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, the hospital’s 3D Mammography equipment was donated to CHC/SEK. It remains in its original location and staffed by the experienced staff who have been responsible for the service for more than 15 years.
The equipment – considered the most advanced breast screening technology available – was funded when it was originally acquired through a gift from the Mercy Health Center Foundation.
“We all agreed that the women of southeast Kansas – regardless of their ability to pay – should have continued access to this service,” said CHC/SEK Chief Executive Officer Krista Postai. “In our discussions with staff and community members, we found that many women in the region had come to rely upon its availability.” As in the past, regardless of where a woman goes for primary care, she can make an appointment for a mammogram in Ft. Scott.
“We were surprised at how many women have used this service locally saving – for many of them – a trip to Kansas City or elsewhere,” Postai said. “That certainly speaks well for the quality of the program and staff.
“We will now be able to extend this resource further making it more accessible to low-income women through special programs and discounts based on ability to pay,” she said. “Every woman has the right to quality screening and thanks to Mercy, the Mercy Foundation and CHC/SEK that will continue.” Postai went on to add the Foundation has contributed funding toward covering the cost for those in Bourbon County who otherwise would not be able to afford it.
Among the benefits of 3D mammography are more accurate detection resulting in fewer call backs for additional tests. Because of the use of multiple angled images, 3D mammography may help detect cancers earlier than conventional 2D mammography and is especially effective with women with dense breast tissue. It also can help reduce anxiety from false alarms while also delivering a minimal amount of radiation.
Mammography Technicians Jennifer Dugan and Suzanne Quick, well-known to area women, will be managing the program and look forward to continuing to serve women throughout the area.
“We chose to become a part of CHC/SEK because we love their mission and the opportunity to continue serving patients in the community that we have grown to love, as well as reaching out to a whole new group of women,” said Jennifer Dugan.
“It was their obvious commitment to helping women that convinced us that we should continue this service,” said Postai, who described her first meeting with the two technicians as inspirational. “I have never met anyone more dedicated,” she said. “They were far more concerned about their patients than themselves after learning of the hospital’s closure.”
Despite CHC/SEK’s lack of experience with mammography, Postai was confident the two women would make it work. “We’ve all spent the last two months learning the legal, technical and practical aspects of offering this service,” she explained. “Our staff worked closely with the organizations that approve mammography and despite all the hurdles were able to get all approvals within a week of transitioning the equipment to CHC/SEK ownership.”
Finding qualified radiologists to read the mammograms was also a challenge since this equipment is usually located in a hospital or a physician-owned service.
“Fortunately, Alliance Radiology based in Kansas City had originally provided this service to Mercy Fort Scott when it was started and were willing to reconnect,” said Postai. The technicians were very familiar with Alliance and had confidence they would meet local needs.
“This was definitely a team effort and it would not have been possible otherwise,” said Postai adding that the community – and CHC/SEK – owe a thank you to Jennifer and Suzanne for putting their patients first.
On February 6, Connie Jackson, a local resident and former Mercy employee, became the first person to have her mammogram at CHC/SEK. “I was scheduled for a six month follow up after having been diagnosed originally with breast cancer in January 2016. The technicians were so caring and considerate and put me at ease,” she said, urging other women to schedule this live-saving test.
In order to schedule a mammogram, it is not necessary to have a local physician. Women may call 620-223-8040 to make an appointment and test results will be sent to the physician of their choosing. Mammograms can be scheduled between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with expanded hours on Wednesdays to 5:30 p.m. to accommodate work schedules. Additional benefits offered through CHC/SEK include the ability to offer mammography at a lower cost with increased access.
Like Mercy, CHC/SEK is a participant in the Kansas Early Detection Works program with free mammograms available to women between the ages of 45 and 64 years who do not have health insurance and otherwise qualify. More information about the program can be found on the Kansas Department of Health website www.kdheks.gov/edw.
CHC/SEK also offers financial assistance and accepts all patients regardless of their ability to pay along with commercial insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare. For additional information on CHC/SEK’s financial assistance program go to their website at www.chcsek.org or call 620-231-9873.
The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas is a Federally Qualified Health Center dedicated to providing quality health care to everyone regardless of income or insurance status. CHC/SEK is a patient-owned and operated organization serving more than 50,000 children and adults annually. CHC/SEK employs more than 400 professionals and support staff at 15 clinic sites in Bourbon, Crawford, Cherokee, Labette, Linn, Montgomery, and Allen counties and is governed by a 13- member Board of Directors which includes patients and community representatives.
FOR QUESTIONS CONTACT: Carla Farmer, senior marketing advisor, 620-224-6500