Since the beginning of 2010, 43 rural hospitals – with a total of more than 1,500 beds – have closed, according to data from the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. The pace of closures has quickened: from 3 in 2012 to 13 in 2013, and 12 in 2014. In Kansas alone, 15 critical access hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open. “It’s important that the county understand what is going on in rural health care right now, especially with our neighbors in Wellington having serious problems,” said Alan Patterson, Anthony Medical Center Board Member.
According to KSN news, the City of Wellington loaned Sumner Regional Medical Center $880,000 in June 2014 to help the hospital pay its bills, the hospital has reportedly not paid any funds from that loan. “Neither Anthony or Harper wants to find themselves in a position where we could be closing our doors, that’s why we are trying to develop a new version of rural health care with our two communities,” says Kimberly Schrant, Harper Hospital Board Member.
Declining population, combined with changes in how hospitals are paid for their services, are making it difficult for many small hospitals to survive. “Finding new ways of rural healthcare is the key to keeping healthcare local and our cities and county thriving and we think that with our two hospitals working together we can make that happen,” said Lisa Mathes, Harper Hospital Board Member.
At the joint board meeting Thursday, August 27th, the boards reviewed the state of which other critical access hospitals are operating, the project history of the merger, the Leavitt Analysis, legal options for the districts, and projected future for the merger. Martha Hadsall, Chairman of the Anthony board led the meeting and reminded everyone that, “We are not doing this out of fear, we are doing this for the amazing opportunity that we have.”
The next joint board meeting will be September 24 at 7 pm at Chaparral High School as the boards continue to create a clearer vision for the new model of health care.