WELLINGTON, Kansas — The fate of Wellington’s Sumner Regional Medical Center has been decided, following months of weighing all of the options available for the struggling rural hospital.
“We continue to struggle. We are not closing,” said Fred Hinman, Chairperson, Health Care Authority Board of Directors for the Sumner Regional Medical Center, during Thursday afternoon’s public board meeting.
City leaders and hospital officials met on July 13, 2015 to discuss the fate of the cash-strapped hospital. During that meeting, officials with both the hospital and the city decided to work with consultants to seek out their expertise on how best the hospital can proceed.
We now know those consultants have said the hospital can stay open and that it can, feasibly, recover.
“After spending many hours reviewing that, [a Comprehensive Operational Analysis], many, many, many recommendations were made,” said HCA board member, Terry Deschaine. “We’re going to do our best to follow as many as we can of those recommendations.”
The hope is, Deschaine said, that the recommendations will bring more money into the hospital, whether by reducing expenses and/or through opportunities to increase revenue.
“We’re going to implement changes,” he said, “and many of the recommendations that were made make sense.”
Officials with the hospital tell KSN News that the consulting firm’s recommendations are necessary in order to survive moving forward.
“We need this hospital. We have 130 employees that would be without jobs, and in a town of 8,500 people, that’s critical. That’s critical,” Deschaine continued.
The only ‘hit’ the hospital’s taking that it can’t control? Deschaine says it’s Kansas’ failure to expand Medicaid.
“The state of Kansas has the opportunity to expand Medicaid, and what that means to little hospitals like ours,” he says, is more than $500,000.
“We could recoup a minimum of $578,000 to a maximum of $725,000 per year to take care of patients that should be able to qualify for Medicaid because they’re at poverty level or below,” said Deschaine. “Right now, either they’re not coming in for care, or we are providing free care to them.”
Kansas’ legislative inaction concerning Medicaid, Deschaine says, has hurt small, rural hospitals, like the Sumner Regional Medical Center that reportedly has a high percentage of Medicare patients.
“The urban hospitals, they lose money on Medicare patients, but they have a larger volume of commercial-paid, younger patients, that aren’t dependent on Medicare,” said Deschaine. “We don’t have the luxury of making it [revenue] up on those numbers of patients, and the loss is too big.”
The city of Wellington loaned the Sumner Regional Medical Center $880,000 in June 2014 to help the hospital pay its bills. More than one year later, KSN learned in July 2015, the hospital had reportedly not paid back any funds from that loan.
“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, during a public meeting in July 2015.
For more information about the Sumner Regional Medical Center, click here.