CHC/SEK: Not Possible to Pursue Mercy Building Repurpose

The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas (CHC/SEK) Board of Directors took no action today toward establishing a “medical mall” within the former Fort Scott Mercy Hospital. Prior to finalizing plans for the construction of a new primary care clinic, CHC/SEK had spent the past month assessing the feasibility of remaining in the existing building.


“It was our goal,” said CHC/SEK CEO Krista Postai, “to see if we could recruit enough occupants to cover the cost of repurposing the former hospital built in 2002 at the cost of $30 million.”


“After analyzing costs over the last year and projecting expenses if the building’s space was fully utilized, we estimated that we would need about $800,000 to $1 million annually to cover utilities and maintenance plus the staff to keep the building maintained and fully operational,” said Postai, adding the bulk of that expense would have to be covered by CHC/SEK and Ascension/Via Christi who together would occupy a large percentage of the overall building.


CHC/SEK staff met with multiple people and organizations to discuss their interest including officials from Fort Scott Community College who identified opportunities for space for their nursing department, as well as additional dormitory space. We were especially appreciative of the Bourbon County Commission who had pledged “in-kind” support to take care of mowing, snow removal, etc., as well as the Mercy Health System who had tentatively committed funds for needed and future repairs.


“Altogether, we had tentative commitments from about a half dozen interested in being a part of the project which covered about 100,000 sq. ft. of the 125,000 sq. ft. of available space,” said Postai, who explained the entire building is 177,000 sq. ft. but about 50,000 sq. ft. is dedicated to mechanical space that supports the overall building operations.


“That was assuming Ascension/Via Christi remained in the existing ER and Diagnostic Imaging area, and we continued to occupy the clinic space plus the pharmacy,” she said.


“Unfortunately, we were notified Wednesday that after analyzing their options, Ascension/Via Christi had determined to remain in the existing building on a permanent basis was cost-prohibitive, and it was more fiscally prudent to build a new ER,” said Postai.


“We were told the existing ER space would need about $3 million in renovations and that, plus a lease payment adequate to cover the cost of their share of the facility, would make it far more expensive than a new facility,” said Postai. The CHC/SEK Board was prepared to make a go/no go decision at their Board meeting Thursday but after learning that Ascension/Via Christi was moving forward on their own construction, the board determined it was not possible to pursue this project without them.


“We all have to make hard decisions about what is best for our organizations and, unfortunately, we all have limited funds and have to maximize our capital investments,” said Postai adding that both organizations remain committed to providing services in Ft. Scott.


Both CHC/SEK and Ascension/Via Christi had already started designing new facilities on the existing campus and will proceed on, said Postai explaining CHC/SEK was planning a 25,000 sq. ft. to 30,000 sq. ft. facility facing Horton Street at an estimated cost of about $5 million.

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