The small town in western Bourbon County, population approximately 300, is 20 miles away from health care in Fort Scott and 25 miles from Iola, the two largest towns with clinics nearby.
Spearheaded by Uniontown Ruritan, and the vision of several members of the community, the Uniontown health clinic is a collaboration of Ruritan, USD 235 School District, the Bourbon County Commission, the City of Uniontown and Girard Medical Center.
To see a prior fortscott.biz story on the clinic, click below:
“We at GMC want to partner with the local community there in Uniontown to offer primary care services for an area where it is difficult to access those services currently,” Ruth Duling, Girard Medical Center CEO said.
The project is moving forward quicker since receiving U.S. coronavirus emergency funds which is distributed locally through the Bourbon County SPARK program. That program is to spur on the Kansas economy following the devastating effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) grant was applied for by Uniontown’s school district, which owns the property for the health clinic. The building is the former superintendent’s office.
“The school district applied for SPARK funding because the property to be renovated for use as the clinic, belongs to the school,” Duling said.
“Completion will be after the first of the year,” Duling said. ” I don’t have any idea yet on a date when the clinic will be fully operational. Since the renovation stage is being completed by mostly volunteer work and the availability of that workforce, it’s just difficult to say until we get further in the process…the renovation is in the very early stages.”
Uniontown Ruritan MemberJoe George has taken the lead on the renovation project with input from Girard Medical Center Engineering staff Judd Pride and Pat Holt and its’ Director of Clinic Operations Candi Adams, Duling said.
History The Clinic
Uniontown Mayor Larry Jurgensen explored a health clinic in the town with Fort Scott Mercy Hospital, Mark Warren said.
“At the time the Marathon Valley Nursing Home shut down,” he said.
” Mercy told him they didn’t want to explore a clinic out here because we were close enough to go to Ft. Scott, but instead put clinics in Arma and Pleasanton which were approximately the same distance from Ft. Scott ,” Warren said. “This irritated people out here. The matter was then dropped for a period of years.”
Warren then visited with Holly Koch, Chief Financial Officer of Girard Medical Center and a resident of Uniontown.
He shared with Koch about the possibility of a Girard Medical Center satellite clinic.
After Koch spoke with Duling, meetings were organized which included the City of Uniontown, Ruritan, Girard Medical Center, Senator Jerry Moran’s office, Uniontown citizens, a Pittsburg doctor, Bourbon County Commissioner Lynn O’Harah, and Bourbon County Economic Director Jodi Hoener.
When Mercy Hospital closed in Dec. 2018 things began to progress, Warren said.
“We had residents here now (who were) a longer distance from health services,” Warren said. “Girard went to work then. Ruth asked me and I asked Larry and Judy Jurgensen both to come with me to a Girard Hospital board meeting. Larry gave the historical timeline of his interaction with Mercy to them of which we left that meeting feeling we had their support. The only thing left was funding.”
“The Uniontown Ruritan Club offered to help fundraise but as federal SPARK money became available and Jayhawk Wind ( a wind energy company) heard about it, we found we could still fundraise but possibly not have to work so hard at it. Jayhawk and SPARK money was the final piece of the puzzle to get this project finally started and going and to make a Uniontown clinic a reality.”
Jayhawk Wind contributed a $20,000 grant to help fund the Uniontown Clinic, which will also serve the towns in nearby communities, according to its’ website: http://www.jayhawkwind.com/
The SPARK Grant was for $88,000, according to Warren.