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Former Mercy Clinics To Stay Open Under New Management

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Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott, Kansas will close by the end of 2018 Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott, Kansas will close by the end of 2018
CKC/SEK will assume ownership of Mercy Clinics in Fort Scott, Pleasanton and Arma, KS CKC/SEK will assume ownership of Mercy Clinics in Fort Scott, Pleasanton and Arma, KS

A non-profit primary care system says it will keep Mercy clinics open in Fort Scott, Pleasanton and Arma.

The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas (CHC/SEK) announces that it will assume ownership of the Mercy clinics in those three locations beginning January 1st, 2019. (Related Story, Mercy Announces Closure)

"CHC/SEK entered into discussions with Mercy this summer about the need to maintain access to care and they were anxious to preserve the resources they had built in Bourbon and Linn counties," said CHC/SEK CEO Krista Postai. "As an organization that had grown out of a faith-based health system, CHC/SEK shared their values and their commitment to providing quality, affordable care."

"We both agreed it was the right thing to do," Postai said, commending Mercy leadership for their efforts to ensure those they had served so long would continue to receive care from those they knew and trusted. "They are doing whatever they can to make this transition seamless."

"Everyone recognizes the closure of Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott is a tremendous loss to the community and the state," Postai agreed, adding she was aware of the efforts the system took to prevent it. "Healthcare has undergone tremendous change over the last decade and sustainability is becoming a challenge for rural hospitals everywhere." (Related Story, Reaction of Mercy Closure)

System officials say southeast Kansas especially is vulnerable with a median income 25% below the state average, declining population and a much higher rate of chronic disease, Postai explained. "The traditional model of healthcare is disappearing and with it the hometown hospital."

Officials say CHC/SEK, with 12 clinics in five counties, has worked to counter this erosion by stabilizing the medical, dental and behavioral health services in the region. "We provided services to more than 43,000 individuals last year regardless of their financial status," said Postai, adding that the numbers continue to increase. "Our purpose is to be where we are needed and ensure our care is high quality and affordable."

"We appreciate that the Mercy System trusts us enough to ask us to continue the mission they undertook over a century ago in Fort Scott and, more recently, in Pleasanton and Arma," Postai said. CHC/SEK hopes to retain the medical staff who have served these communities.

"We will be meeting with everyone as soon as we possibly can aware that each member of the Mercy staff will need to make some decisions quickly," said Postai. They plan to talk with anyone interested in a position over the next 30 days.

CHC/SEK expects to employ about 60 to 70 of the Mercy staff impacted by this announcement. CHC/SEK currently employs about 340 including about 100 medical, dental and behavioral health providers. The organization's annual budget is more than $23 million; about 25% of that comes from federal and state funding with the balance from service care delivery.

"We expect to have all sites transitioned by February 1, 2019," Postai said, explaining that the four clinics will be phased in over a 60-day period to minimize service disruption. Hours and days of clinic operations are expected to remain the same.

CHC/SEK will also continue to operate the pharmacy located within the hospital itself and patients should see a reduction in the cost of their prescriptions.

"We can bring some resources to the community and the clinics because – as a community health center – we are eligible for some special benefits," Postai said. "We are able to buy drugs at the same price that the Veteran's Administration pays meaning that we can ensure our patients – especially those on fixed incomes – will be able to afford their prescriptions."

"Those covered by Medicare may qualify for a discount on their co-pay and, by regulation, their deductible is waived," she said, adding "As the region's only Medicare Benefits Enrollment Center, we can assist our older population in identifying all the resources for which they may be eligible."

Postai says many of CHC/SEK's clinics also offer dental and behavioral health services.

"Once we get fully transitioned we will then begin identifying other needs and add resources as we can," she said. "We really believe in an integrated model of care realizing that those with chronic disease often fight depression and good oral health can impact overall wellbeing."

"It makes a lot of sense to create a one-stop approach and that's something we can bring to the community," said Postai, adding that many are unaware that CHC/SEK services are available to anyone. "We accept all private insurance, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, so our patients are representative of the community as a whole."

CHC/SEK also offers financial assistance for those on reduced incomes. "Our mission is to ensure everyone has access to primary care so no one is turned away," she said. "Our vision is 'Healthcare The Way It Should Be' which means person-focused, personalized and compassionate."

Postai went on to express CHC/SEK's appreciation for everything Mercy is doing to help make the transition as seamless as possible. "Without their support, this undertaking would have not been possible."

"Much work lies ahead but we know everyone wants to preserve as many of the health resources as possible in these communities," she said. "We are honored to be asked and we are committed to making it happen."

www.chcsek.org

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