Noble Health Corporation announced yesterday that in the near future they will be deciding whether it is feasible to reopen a hospital at the former Mercy Hospital facility, according to Rob Harrington, Director of Bourbon County Regional Economic Development Inc.
“There will be two more meetings with the (Bourbon County) Commission and then they will begin talking with the public about the outcome of the feasibility study,” Harrington said.
“Today was a good day for Bourbon County and we are excited to see the process continue,” he said.
“The next phases will be dedicated to renovation costs and I believe labor,” he said.
“The study has been completed, however, it contains information that at this time needs to remain confidential until after the property is transferred to Noble by the county,” Harrington said. “We are hopeful that this will happen in January and February when they begin doing their town hall meetings.”
Noble Health Corp. announced in June 2021 that it would explore the possibility of reopening the acute care hospital facility in Fort Scott, according to a previous press release from the corporation.
The corporation, a Kansas City company, engaged in a cooperative agreement with Bourbon County to conduct a feasibility study that could lead to the reopening of the former Mercy Hospital building, located at 401 Woodland Hills Blvd., according to the press release.
The building is located just off Hwy. 69 on Fort Scott’s south side.
Mercy Hospital Fort Scott closed in December of 2018.
Since that time Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas has leased a portion of the building, and Ascension Via Christi Hospital, Pittsburg, has leased the emergency department. Those leases end in December 2022. Fort Scott Community College has leased the western part of the building for student housing.
To view the prior features on Nobel Health in Fort Scott:
Craig Campbell is retiring from his 39-year career as a pharmacist on June 30.
A chance conversation with a relative changed the course of his life when deciding on a career.
“By chance, I was visiting with my great uncle who was a pharmacist,” he said. ” Willard Higbee, he was the brother of my grandma, Bernice Campbell.”
“I confided in him that I was working on a chemical engineering degree but did not think I could get through the math requirements,” Campbell said. “He said I would love pharmacy, so I visited with Ken Asher and Bob Tuchscherer, local pharmacists at the time, and they agreed that pharmacy was a wonderful profession.”
Technology advancement has changed his job as a pharmacist.
“Technology has advanced so much with the electronic medical record,” Campbell said. “It brings into view so much more information that lets you know more about the patient, not just in the present moment but what has gone on before.”
“Prescriptions are so much safer now that we do not have to figure out the doctor’s handwriting,” he said. “Sorry doctor friends. Pharmacists are an integral part of the patient care team now, since when I started in the fall of 1982.”
He has most recently been Mercy Health System’s Director of Pharmacy Performance, St. Louis, since November 2014. But his office is located in a wing of the former Mercy Hospital, although during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has worked mostly from home, he said.
From 1999-2018 Campbell served as Mercy Hospital Fort Scott’s Pharmacy Director, before that from ’92-’99, was a staff pharmacist at Mt. Carmel Hospital (now Ascension Via Christi) in Pittsburg.
Campbell worked from1983-1992 for four pharmacy’s starting with his first job in Texas.
Campbell completed a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, OK, and an associate of arts degree in pre-pharmacy from Fort Scott Community College.
For Campbell, the best part of his career was being a part of patient care teams, which come up with the best plan to improve patient health, he said.
“That has been rewarding,” Campbell said. “While at Mercy Fort Scott…my hometown, I was able to care for a lot of friends and family.”
“I once went into the room of an elderly teacher I had in the seventh or eighth grade,” he said. “The patient taught math. The patient said I must have been a student, but could not recall my name. I told who I was. The patient asked what I did for a living and I said I was a pharmacist. The patient smiled and said, ‘I must have been a pretty good teacher.’ Yes, the patient was a good teacher.”
The COVID-19 Pandemic has been the biggest challenge of his career.
“In the six years I have worked for Mercy at the system level, the main responsibility is to make sure each hospital has the medications they need when they need them,” Campbell said. “COVID was the most difficult time as we were competing with every hospital in the country to have enough meds to treat patients, especially those on ventilators. There were many 20 hour days in April and May 2020.”
What is on the horizon for you?
My wife (Jane) says I am trading one OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) for another,” he said. “I would really like to help the city and county improve the overall quality of life through organizing volunteer groups to help our neighbors with whatever they need.”
Campbell is chairman of the Good Neighbor Action Team, which helps people with work on yards, house painting, etc.
“The community has three big events coming up next year with Big Kansas Road Trip in May, Good Ole Days, and the Fort Scott High School all-class reunion next June. We really have an opportunity to show off our great town and county.”
“We will also travel some and see more of the grandkids’ activities,” he said.
Campbel has four children: Ryan (who is deceased); Brett and wife, Kayla, Pittsburg; Trevor and wife, Jami, Overland Park; and Jenna Campbell and her fiance Devin, Fort Scott. His grandkids are Mackenize Campbell, Spokane, WA; Brecken and Landry Campbell, Pittsburg and Kennadie, Rush, Austyn, and Larkin Campbell, Overland Park.
The Bourbon County Commission will be receiving the former Mercy Hospital building at 401 Woodland Hills Blvd. and $600,000 from Mercy as a donation to the county, Rob Harrington, Bourbon County Economic Development Director said in an email.
Mercy Hospital Fort Scott closed in October 2018.
The Sisters of Mercy had served the community since 1886.
Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas has had a clinic at the building since Mercy closed, but is moving when its’ lease is up at the end of 2022.
They have purchased the former Price Chopper store, 2322 Main Street, for their new facility.
The emergency department at the former hospital building also has a lease that will be up in 2022.
The county commission has been working on a solution to keep the building viable, as opposed to tearing the two-decades-old building down.
“Today is the beginning of a process, “Bourbon County Commissioner Clifton Beth said. “The attorneys will be going through the process of accepting the donation and the $600,000.”
“We are in conversation with different entities that could potentially have use for that building,” Beth said.
The Bourbon County Commission is comprised of Beth, Lynne Oharah and Jim Harris.
Beth said credit needs to go to Harrington who has been working to find entities that are interested.
“A lot of behind-the-scenes work is going on,” Beth said.
“We are trying to save the building,” Beth said. “My main priority is to have an Emergency Room in Bourbon County.”
“At the end of the day, the end users for that building, if they can use it, great,” Beth said. “If not, we’ll look at other options.”
“My goal is to be sure we have an ER,” Beth said. “Ascension Via Christi has one-and-one-half years left on their (current) lease. In conversations with them, they are planning to stay.”
Sarah Jane Tribble, a journalist who spent two years telling the story of the closing of Mercy Hospital, offers her podcasts for the listening public.
“Want to ignore what’s happening in DC and escape COVID for a moment?” she said on her Facebook page. “Here’s a distraction: All chapters of my new podcast Where It Hurts are available via@KHNews&@stlpublicradio
Here’s a list of Fort Scott residents who bravely opened up and shared their pain and courage: Tanner and Sherise Beckham, Dave Martin, Fred Campbell, Reta Baker, Pat and Ralph Wheeler, Dr. Maxwell Self, Linda Findley, Karen Endicott-Coyan, and the late Roxine Poznich, who owned Books & Grannies.
A new audio file will be available for Fort Scottians to download to a computer or mobile device about the demise of Mercy Hospital in 2018.
It will be a series, which can be subscribed to, entitled “Where It Hurts.” The first season is “No Mercy.”
The author of the series is Sarah Jane Tribble, a Kaiser Health News Senior Correspondent.
Tribble returned several times to Fort Scott following Mercy’s closure, to interview residents.
She spent more than a year recording the lives of people and how they changed.
“Their stories are full of grit and hope. Along the way, Tribble finds that the notion that every community needs a hospital deserves questioning,” according to the press release.
“The reporting for this project began just weeks before the hospital closed in December 2018 and ended with a final trip in December 2019,” Tribble said. “Throughout, I was reminded of the resilience and strength of people in southeastern Kansas.”
Each episode spends time with people in town, Tribble said in an email interview. “In one, I take the listener to a (Fort Scott) Chamber Coffee, in another, we travel to the cancer treatment center. I truly believe every person in this podcast is worth meeting and spending time with.”
Tribble asked “uncomfortable questions of (Fort Scott) town leaders and the Catholic nuns who once ran Mercy to find out why the hospital, like so many others in rural America, fell upon hard times and ultimately shut down,” according to the release.
Tribble in the first segment on Sept. 29, interviews Pat and Ralph Wheeler, Dave Martin, Roxine Poznich, Krista Postai, and Reta Baker.
Mercy’s Importance To Fort Scott
The loss to the community was not just health care but Mercy Hospital was one of its largest employers and had some of its best-paying jobs according to a Kaiser Family Foundation press release, New Podcast “No Mercy” Features Fort Scott.
“Mercy Hospital served as a mainstay of the town for 132 years and was a constant presence until faltering finances forced its doors to close in December 2018,” according to the press release. “The town felt abandoned.”
The new podcast is a collaboration between Kaiser Health News and St. Louis Public Radio.
When KHN Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal read Tribble’s stories of Fort Scott, she knew it should be a podcast, according to the press release .
St. Louis Public Radio General Manager Tim Eby said in the press release “The powerful stories from ‘Where It Hurts’ will help listeners, no matter where they are, understand the health care challenges facing our nation. These are stories that bring context and humanity and need to be heard by audiences.”
Series Begins On September 29 With Weekly Episodes
The series employing a narrative storytelling approach, debuts Sept. 29, with episodes to be released weekly through Nov. 10.
They will be available on major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and NPR One.
About the author, Sarah Jane Tribble
Tribble was born and grew up in Parsons, Kansas. Her parents still live on the 10-acre farm she was raised on.
“My love of journalism began when I joined the high school newspaper staff,” she said. ” I went away to college, took a job at the Wichita Eagle, and then followed a journalism career path that took me from coast-to-coast.”
She first heard of Fort Scott Mercy Hospital closing from her mom in one of their frequent conversations, Tribble said.
Doing the background for the story, Tribble was alarmed by the health statistics.
“As someone who grew up in the region, I was initially surprised and alarmed to learn of some of the poor health statistics in the area,” Tribble said in the email interview. “The data shows there are higher rates of diabetes and obesity as well as higher rates of smoking and childhood poverty than other areas of the state. It all adds up to people dying younger.”
‘No Mercy’: What Happens to a Rural Town When Its Only Hospital Shuts Down?
New ‘Where It Hurts’ Podcast From KFF’s Kaiser Health News and St. Louis Public Radio Documents the Economic and Emotional Fallout
Sept. 23, 2020
“No Mercy,” the first season of the new “Where It Hurts” podcast from KFF’s Kaiser Health News (KHN) and St. Louis Public Radio, immerses you in the fallout experienced by one rural town, Fort Scott, Kansas, in the year after its only hospital was shut down by a distant corporate owner.
In losing Mercy Hospital Fort Scott, the community lost not just health care but also one of its largest employers and some of its best paying jobs, sparking tensions, anger and fear for many. Fort Scott’s identity wavered as residents struggled to come to terms with losing the place where their babies were born and kids’ bones were set, and patients with cancer went to get chemo.
Mercy Hospital served as a mainstay of the town for 132 years, and was a constant presence until faltering finances forced its doors to close in December 2018. The town felt abandoned.
KHN senior correspondent Sarah Jane Tribble, who grew up in southeastern Kansas, returns to her roots to ask uncomfortable questions of town leaders and the Catholic nuns who once ran Mercy to find out why the hospital, like so many others in rural America, fell upon hard times and ultimately shut down. Tribble spent more than a year returning again and again to see how the lives of people changed. From a low-income senior who struggles to get to dialysis to the CrossFit-loving town manager and the nurse who became the hospital’s last president, their stories are full of grit and hope. Along the way, Tribble finds that the notion that every community needs a hospital deserves questioning.
The new podcast is a collaboration between KHN and St. Louis Public Radio. Season One: “No Mercy” is the first offering in a new “Where It Hurts” podcast partnership. In future seasons, other storytellers will lead the reporting to highlight overlooked parts of America and show how health system failures can ripple through the social fabric of a community.
Troubles similar to those in Fort Scott are plaguing rural areas all over America. More than 130 rural hospitals have closed over the past decade, including 18 in 2019 alone. These days, the added pressures of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic have forced even more small, rural hospitals to close their doors for good — 15 in the first eight months of 2020.
“When Sarah Jane shared her reporting on the fallout from a rural hospital closing in her home state of Kansas, I said, ‘Wow, this has to be a podcast,’” said KHN Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal. “I’m so thrilled that St. Louis Public Radio has jumped in wholeheartedly with us to make it happen!”
“We’re proud to partner with the team from KHN to shed light on health care disparities,” said St. Louis Public Radio General Manager Tim Eby. “The powerful stories from ‘Where It Hurts’ will help listeners, no matter where they are, understand the health care challenges facing our nation. These are stories that bring context and humanity and need to be heard by audiences.”
“Where It Hurts” is KHN’s third podcast project and the first to employ a narrative storytelling approach. It debuts Sept. 29, with episodes to be released weekly through Nov. 10, and will be available on major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and NPR One. Listen to the “Where It Hurts” trailer and find more information at whereithurts.show. Members of the news media can request an embargoed version of the entire first episode, “It Is What It Is,” by filling out this form.
“Where It Hurts” is St. Louis Public Radio’s seventh podcast currently in production, the most distinguished being “We Live Here” — a two-time international Kaleidoscope Award winner for outstanding coverage of diverse communities and issues.
About KFF and KHN:
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) and, along with Policy Analysis and Polling, is one of the three major operating programs of KFF. KFF is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
About St. Louis Public Radio:
St. Louis Public Radio is an award-winning news organization and NPR member station, providing in-depth news, insightful discussion and entertaining programs to a half-million people per month on air and online. With a large, St. Louis-based newsroom and reporters stationed in Jefferson City and Rolla, Missouri, and Belleville, Illinois, the station’s journalists find and tell important stories about communities across the region and help people become deeply informed about the issues that affect their lives. Broadcasting on 90.7 KWMU-FM in St. Louis, 90.3 WQUB in Quincy, Illinois, 88.5 KMST in Rolla and 96.3 K242AN in Lebanon, Missouri, and sharing news and music online at stlpublicradio.org, St. Louis Public Radio is a member-supported service of the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.
“On July 10, I was able to publicly thank Congressman Steve Watkins for his help on the Mercy facility.
The Congressman was in town Friday at the Nu-Grille (restaurant) for a small group discussion passing through for other stops for the day.
Several months ago I reached out to him and his office with an idea to save the (former)Mercy Hospital facility.
After I reached out to them he sent one of his staff to meet with me.
His staff came to some of the meetings we set up with other people of interest such as the city, CHC, Via Christi and others. His office made contact with the person with Mercy headquarters and arranged a phone meeting between that person and myself along with the Congressman’s staff member.
They have searched for Government grants that might be of assistance for Bourbon County to use.
They opened doors that we could not get open and that is what allowed the process to move forward!
He and his staff have been instrumental with helping us get to where
we are today!
I would also like to thank the Bourbon County Commissioners for taking bold action by accepting the donation of the facility!
By doing so I believe we will ensure our community will have good healthcare options available in a nice facility for many years to come.
Our hope is to fill this facility with several healthcare options and I am in hopes that we will have hospital services at some point down
Jody Hoener, the Bourbon County Economic Director has also worked very hard in spearheading meetings, making contacts, and looking for grants.
It definitely, like many things, takes action from many but
without Congressman Watkins Office I don’t think we could have got the ball rolling!
Bourbon County Economic Director Jody Hoener is working on securing leases in the former Mercy Hospital building on Fort Scott’s south end, in hopes of providing the county with a medical mall.
A medical mall is a facility offering comprehensive ambulatory medical services such as primary and secondary care, diagnostic procedures, outpatient surgery, and rehabilitation, except the overnight beds, according to merriam-webster.com.
“Bourbon County demographics show proportionately more elderly, more children living in poverty, lower incomes, and more chronic health conditions,” Hoener said. ” In addition, our community recently felt the impact of fewer health services (with the closing of Mercy Hospital in 2018). Rural health systems can overcome these challenges by creating linkages and efficiencies.”
“Access to robust and diverse health services is much more than a quality of life issue,” she said. “A vigorous and thriving health care system is essential not only for public health and welfare, but to enhance economic opportunity as well.”
Health organizations that currently have a part in Bourbon County health care have shown interest.
“We are currently working on leases with Community Health Centers of Southeast Kansas and Ascension Via Christi,” she said. “These leases will be ten-year long-term contracts,” she said. “Fort Scott Community College Nursing program will also be leasing space through an inter-local agreement.”
Other entities have “paused” conversations.
“Although we have been in talks with additional healthcare providers to occupy space, the COVID-19 pandemic has paused much of these conversations.,” Hoener said. “Recruitment activities will be a high priority with a goal of one additional anchor tenant in the next 3-5 years.”
The combined operation of many entities under one roof provides financial benefits to each involved, Hoener believes.
“The healthcare mall addresses many challenges local providers face in an innovative approach, creating synergy within the four walls, that will help each organization’s bottom line,” she said. ” In general, there are fewer healthcare providers in rural areas, and they operate on very thin profit margins. When compared to urban communities, our local health providers face unique challenges.”
Bourbon County’s vision for the community:
“Our vision is a healthy, safe, and thriving Bourbon County.,” she said. “A strong health care system is a critical piece of any community’s vitality and sustainability.”
The healthcare industry impacts the local economy.
“The healthcare industry is rapidly changing and has the potential to greatly impact access to these services in the future, ” Hoener said.
“Through the healthcare mall, we are becoming proactive in maintaining high-quality local health care services. In addition to health outcomes, healthcare services have shown to have an impact on:
Attracting and maintaining business and industry growth
Attracting and retaining retirees
Creating higher-paying jobs in a growing sector
Contributing to public finances, supporting essential public services”
” Americans are spending more dollars on healthcare,” Hoener said. “In 1970 healthcare costs accounted for 7.0 percent of the GDP. In 2017, Americans spent $3.5 trillion on healthcare, or 18.0 percent of the GDP. The projected GDP is 19.4 percent by 2027 (Kansas Health Association, 2019). Capturing a share of this economic growth will only help our community.”
“When residents spend health care dollars elsewhere, rather than purchasing the service locally, it can have a negative economic impact and result in loss of dollars within our local community,” she said. “Out of town trips to obtain healthcare services naturally offer opportunities to spend dollars outside of town that may have been spent locally.”
“Nationwide, employment in healthcare services increased 92 percent from 1990 to 2015. For Bourbon County, in 2017, health services ranked number 3 in terms of employment,” she said. ” Also, in 2017, the health care sector’s impact on retail sales was $19,308,000, county sales tax impact of $270,000, and a total impact of $65,378,000. (Kansas Health Association, 2017).”
“Industry and business leaders look for good health and education services when making location decisions,” Hoener said. “They also want to ensure the local labor force will meet their needs.”
” Attracting and maintaining retirees is also important as this is a special group of residents whose spending can provide a significant source of income for the local economy.”
The latest out of Fort Scott and the No Mercy series. Big thanks to Dawn Swisher-Anderson, who allowed me to interview her wise and well-spoken kids. Both Susan Glossip and Dawn told me last week that they did not buy a membership.