Wellington loans financial booster to ailing hospital

WELLINGTON, Kansas – City leaders are giving a financial shot in the arm to its hospital, loaning the Sumner Regional Medical Center the cash to keep it running.

The city will loan around $880,000 to the cash-strapped hospital to pay its bills. Administrators say the hospital’s funding issues stemmed from a 21 percent decrease in revenue after several doctors moved to other facilities and delayed payment of almost $1 million in federal funding after the government shutdown last year.

“Lots of things associated with that million dollars got us to where we needed to go to the city to talk to them,” Leonard Hernandez, Sumner Regional Medical Center’s CEO, said.

The city of Wellington owns the hospital, but the hospital board manages the 80-bed facility. Repayment terms still need to be worked out.

“There certainly would be an impact if it would not be able to continue,” Shane Shields, Wellington’s interim city manager, said. “There would be a financial impact to the city regarding EMS transports to the city either way.”

It’s a big bet by the city, as the loan amounts to a little more than half of the city’s $1.7 million reserve fund. But city officials say the hospital is too important to do nothing.

“The goal is to simply have the hospital be able to break even and continue to have a hospital here in the city of Wellington,” Shields said.

Hospital officials say they are trying to get Sumner Regional Medical Center reclassified as a rural hospital, and that would open up new avenues of funding.

SRMC is designated as an urban hospital since it is in the Wichita statistical area for Census purposes, even though Wellington is a city with just over 8,100 residents. Officials say that makes it harder to get funding.

“It’s a whole different ballgame for a Wichita hospital to operate as urban than one in Wellington,” Hernandez said.

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