It is with sadness and alarm that we heard about another hospital closing in rural Kansas yesterday.
This marks the second Kansas hospital to close its doors in recent years. Almost three years ago to the day (October 10, 2015), Independence lost its century-old Mercy Hospital, leaving the community scrambling to fill the void that the loss of a major employer and health care provider leaves in a rural community.
It is even more devastating to know this is likely a preventable disaster.
If Kansas lawmakers had passed legislation to expand KanCare, as it has been debating for the past four years, resources would have been available to help keep this hospital open. The failure to expand KanCare cost the Fort Scott hospital more than $2.5 million in revenue per year.
Debates and delays led to this closure and the likelihood it will lead to more grows higher every day. Research shows that rural hospitals in states, like Kansas, that have not expanded Medicaid, are six times more likely to close than those in expansion states. More than 30 rural Kansas hospitals are considered financially vulnerable and are at risk of closure.
When a rural hospital closes, the ripple effects throughout the community can be devastating. Hundreds of good jobs are lost. It becomes much more difficult to attract new businesses and new residents to the community. And, of course, access to care, especially for the elderly and chronically ill, is greatly diminished.
We stand by the leaders in Fort Scott. As with any disaster, Kansans will rally together and find a way to put some of the pieces back together.
But it will be a temporary fix to a long-term problem.
In Kansas, the clock is ticking and we have the ability to change the course for future hospitals and communities. It is called KanCare expansion.
We look forward to working with our legislators during the 2019 session, as well as the people affected by these closures, to make KanCare expansion a reality. And to make sure this doesn’t happen to one more community.
For more information, please contact April Holman, Executive Director, at 785-861-7894.