Concerns over rural hospital funding continue in Wellington

Courtesy KSN News

WELLINGTON, Kansas — The fate of Wellington’s Sumner Regional Medical Center may soon be decided.

After the city of Wellington loaned the Sumner Regional Medical Center $880,000 in June 2014 to help the hospital pay its bills, KSN learned, even after one year, the hospital has reportedly not paid back any funds from that loan.

Officials with the city and the rural hospital met Monday to discuss the fate of the cash-strapped hospital.

“We have to make some tough choices, because I don’t think any of us want to lose our hospital. We don’t want to lose the access that we have to our health care, we certainly don’t want those families and those employees to lose their jobs,” explained Wellington Mayor Shelley Hansel.

Members of the hospital’s authority board, city council, and physicians with Sumner Regional Medical Center met in two, one-hour executive sessions Monday evening. These sessions were closed to the public and the media.

Representatives with the city told KSN News “nothing binding was decided” during those sessions.

We do know that hospital officials are scheduled to meet next week with consultants to seek out their expertise on how best the hospital can proceed.

“I do know that we’ve got to do something in order to save our hospital,” said Mayor Hansel. “We’ve got a lot to think about and we’re going to have to do something.”

Last month, in June 2015, the city of Wellington filed a lien on the hospital.

Mayor Hansel says they did that in order to protect the hospital from creditors and/or other independent entities who may halt business at the hospital, effectively shutting it down, until bills are paid.

“We’re going to obviously allow the hospital to operate so they can get out of this hole, so that hopefully, legal action isn’t necessary,” said Hansel.

Retired surgeon, Dr. Faustino Naldoza, Jr., who attended Monday’s executive session compared the hospital to a patient in critical care, on an operating table.

“In our business, as physicians, we try to do the best we can for the patient’s health,” said Dr. Naldoza, adding that the decision-makers for the hospital must use their past knowledge and experience to do what needs to be done to save their patient… to nurse the hospital back to health and production.

Dr. Naldoza says it is not going to be easy, but says the community, together, must take action.

“We have a problem. We need to solve it, and we need to take the first step,” said Dr. Naldoza.

Mayor Hansel agreed, saying that it is a step in the right direction to have all parties involved on the same page.

“We have to do something because right now, we are the definition of ‘insanity,’” said Shelley Hansel, the mayor of Wellington. “We continue to do the same things and the same things, and we’re expecting different results, and it’s not happening.”

Administrators told KSN News last year that 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 in 2013.

For more information about the Sumner Regional Medical Center, click here.

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