Healthcare In Fort Scott: It’s Complicated

Mercy Hospital Fort Scott closed in December 2018. It currently houses Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, Ascension Via Christi Emergency Department,  and I AM Rehab.

In December 2018, Mercy Hospital Fort Scott closed its’ doors.

Following this, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas reopened a medical clinic at the site at 401 Woodland Hills Blvd. and Ascension Via Christi Hospital opened an emergency department, sharing a portion of the former hospital.

They both have leases until December 2022.

Noble Health Corporation entered the picture in 2021.

They completed a feasibility study for the Bourbon County Commission for reopening a hospital.

The City of Fort Scott contributed $200,000, the county contributed $800,000 towards the feasibility study, according to the contract that was signed June 25, 2021. The local government entities used American Rescue Plan money from the federal government for the project, according to Bourbon County Commissioner Clifton Beth in a prior interview with fortscott.biz.

Noble Health Announces Reopening a Hospital in Fort Scott

On June 3, Noble Health’s 179 page Feasibility Assessment to reopen the hospital in Fort Scott was published on the Bourbon County website.

It can be viewed here: BBCO-Hospitial-Feasibilty-Assessment

On June 15, a comprehensive investigative story on Noble Health from Sara Jane Tribble with Kaiser Health News, was posted online.

It reported that Noble Health has a troubled history with operating two hospitals in Missouri.

It can be viewed here: Noble Health: History of Failed Health Care For Patients

CHC Feasibility Study

A prior feasibility assessment by Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas had helped that health care system to make the decision to move to a different building, Krista Postai, CEO and President of CHC/SEK said.

In an interview with her, Postai was asked to compare the Noble Health Assessment to the CHC Assessment that was completed after CHC moved into the former Mercy Hospital building in 2018.

“We have a very comprehensive, detailed report county-by-county that has all the data one needs to make an informed decision on services, location, etc.,” she said.  “We also have a strategic plan that is updated annually that maps out where we’re going, new services, etc. Prior to accepting Mercy’s offer to take their clinics, we had already prioritized Ft. Scott because we had almost 2,000 patients from Bourbon County which is enough to justify a site.”

“There was nothing new in Noble’s report that we already didn’t know or hadn’t already been discussed, including the rural emergency hospital concept that Ascension had always planned on pursuing if feasible,” she said. “In fact, much of our data is more current (2021) although, unfortunately, southeast Kansas isn’t getting healthier or wealthier so changes over the last 20 years have been minimal.”

Ascension Via Christ medical system brought an emergency department back to Fort Scott following Mercy Hospital’s closure and shares part of the former Mercy Hospital building with CHC.

“When we first agreed to transition Mercy’s clinic in the hospital over to us, Mercy indicated we had two years to find another location,” she said. “It was their belief that the building would ultimately be demolished unless we wanted to assume responsibility for it.”

“We sliced and diced all the costs based on actual operational data that Mercy supplied us and factored in roof replacement, the chillers and the boilers….all the things that were nearing the end of their useful life,” Postai said. “We also visited with multiple organizations about their interest in leasing space on a long-term basis that would cover the cost to operate and maintain it.”

“At that point, the county opted to present a counter proposal to Ascension at a much lower price per sq. ft. that would require the county to subsidize it, which they indicated they were willing to do. It seemed wise at that point to step back and let the county take the lead since emergency services was their priority.”

Decision to Move to Another Site

“Concerned about the ongoing costs of maintaining the building – and wanting a more efficient design plus a drive-in pharmacy, plus more diagnostic equipment and space to expand behavioral health services — we begin laying plans to move….and approached the Price Chopper owners about their building,” Postai said. “At that time, the asking price was way too high for us, so we asked Mercy for land on which to build which is how we got the eight acres behind the hospital.  As we began design on a new building, the Price Chopper price dropped and we agreed it would be faster to renovate….and it was an ideal location. As we calculated, it was more financially feasible to own the building and make loan payments than it was to pay rent on space in a building with an uncertain future.”

The Price Chopper building, 2322 S. Main, is currently being remodeled into a health care clinic by Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas.

One thought on “Healthcare In Fort Scott: It’s Complicated”

  1. Is there a link to the CHC “Feasibility Study”? Odd how it wasn’t brought to the attention of, or made available to, county officials to ensure that the citizens of Fort Scott had the best options of healthcare available as they explored options for the facility. Regardless of the success, failure or reputation of Noble, it seems like the feasibility study, noted and linked in the article above, will be a useful tool to encourage any healthcare entity to invest in our community. It’s strange that CHC is so verbally opposed to a study that could lead to a different healthcare option in FS. But is it strange? Or are we just seeing business people do what they do and build their company? According to CHC’s Tax form 990 and Audit, publicly available here: https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/753002264, Net Income jumped up to over 5 Million dollars in 2019 and 2020 after averaging around $2M annually. That is “Net Income” not gross, which means that is what they retained in their coffers after they paid all their expenses and current year liabilities. Concurrently, Ms. Postai’s salary increased nearly $50k over that time, with the most recent reported filing showing $327,000. Within that context, are we still sure that CHC’s opposition to trying to lure other healthcare options was to ensure Fort Scotians had the best available resources? Or were they protecting their pocketbooks and annual bonuses? Surely its a coincidence right- they are such champions of our community and have only the best interest of our people at mind so much that they jump on the opportunity to fend off those pesky wolves of outside healthcare organizations.

    When we, citizens of an area caught between poverty and the brink of opportunity, think about what we want and need, is a federally funded clinic designed to meet the needs of welfare recipients what we aspire to as our keystone of healthcare? Or should we embrace the tools that are available to pump the brakes on the steady decline of quality of life in our town? Skewed, misinformed, opinion pieces such as the prevarication above and lambasting facebook posts by self-important, ego-driven people with brittle facades of being community champions do nothing to drive the current and future successes of our city. Perhaps it’s time to cut through the malarkey and really be champions of our city and citizenry.

    I, for one, would have loved to have seen a summary or explanation of the results of the feasibility study. Maybe I missed it. Or maybe we’re too busy pandering to false saviors to really disseminate information without padding the narrative. But, I digress….

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