County warms to Saint Luke’s option


Local News

October 20, 2018 - 5:28 PM

While traveling through northern Missouri a few months ago, Terry Sparks made an impromptu visit to Wright Memorial Hospital in Trenton. As a trustee for Allen County Regional Hospital, Sparks knew it was studying its management contract and could potentially make a change. To that end, Sparks set a goal of seeing not only how other hospitals were managed but also how their communities viewed them.

He was impressed by what he saw in Trenton, a hospital owned by the city and leased to Saint Luke’s Health System. He heard positive reviews, about both hospital services and community engagement. He learned about cooperative efforts with another Saint Luke’s hospital at Chillicothe, Mo., about 23 miles away.

Sparks immediately thought about Anderson County Hospital, a Saint Luke’s-leased hospital in Garnett, about 29 miles away.

Those three hospitals all had been built in recent years with financial support from Saint Luke’s. All were critical access hospitals, with 25 or fewer beds in rural areas that qualify for special federal funding. ACRH is also a critical access hospital, built five years ago. Funding for construction of the hospital comes from $25 million in government-issued bonds and $5 million in a bank loan, approved by voters in 2010. City and county sales taxes and hospital revenues work to tackle the now $26 million debt.

It was through their efforts of trying to build a new hospital that trustees’ relationship with a lease arrangement soured. When under contract with Hospital Corporation of America, the Nashville-based corporation refused to contribute to new construction.

So when Sparks said he believed he had found an exception, fellow trustees were skeptical.

They’d leased Allen County’s hospital for decades before taking back control in 2013, and weren’t interested in going back. They also didn’t think after their experience with HCA that anyone would be interested in assuming their debt.

But after pressure from county commissioners and others, trustees listened to presentations from Saint Luke’s on Wednesday morning, joined by county commissioners, hospital employees and others. The meeting was for information-purposes only and no decision was made. ACRH trustees still plan to collect proposals and interview hospital management companies, with a goal to make a decision by the end of the year.

But at least two of those who were initially opposed to a lease, including one trustee, said they’re more open to the idea after hearing Wednesday’s presentation.


About Saint Luke’s

Saint Luke’s is a non-profit, faith-based health system with 16 hospitals and campuses in the Kansas City area. They also offer a number of primary care offices, community clinics, hospice offices and long term care facilities. In recent years, they’ve opened five pint-sized community hospitals, eight-bed facilities that offer emergency room care as a model for areas that can’t support a full hospital.

They also offer one of the nation’s top cardiology and heart surgery programs, among other nationally recognized programs. The system has earned numerous awards for services and programs.

Julie Quirin, senior vice president and chief operating officer for the Saint Luke’s Health System, and Chuck Robb, chief financial officer, spoke on behalf of Saint Luke’s at Wednesday’s presentation.

ACRH looks very similar to the system’s other three critical access hospitals, Quirin said. Despite local concerns that ACRH’s market share captures around 29 percent of area residents, Robb said it’s a positive sign that it is still the leading provider in its primary service area. Neosho Memorial Regional Hospital in Chanute, for example, captures about 14.83 percent of the Allen County area. The next highest provider is Via Christi Regional Medical Center in Wichita, at 7.57 percent.

The hospital also appears to have a high number of Medicare patients, which is a positive sign for a critical access hospital with an aging population.

“Our strategy over the years really has been to keep patients as close to home as possible to get their healthcare services,” Quirin said. “Our strategic plan, which we call Vision 2020, is all about the patient, taking care of the patient how they want to be taken care of and where they want to be taken care of.

“We really do want to retain and grow the business locally but also leverage all the strengths and the power of Saint Luke’s into a community like Iola. We think it’s a win-win scenario.”