2 Kansas hospitals at risk of closing must look past 136-year-old rivalry for solution

Ayla Ellison (Twitter) - Print  | 

Two Kansas towns are facing the potential loss of their only hospitals, and a longstanding rivalry between the two towns is complicating efforts to preserve healthcare services, according to a KMUW report.

Anthony (Kan.) Medical Center is located just 10 miles from Harper (Kan.) Hospital, and the two facilities have more in common than their geographical location — they're both losing money.

Faced with reimbursement cuts from the state and federal governments, the two hospitals are exploring their options for the future. One potential solution is for the hospitals to join forces through a partnership agreement, but a clash that began in the 1800's may prevent that from happening.

There was an election in 1879 to decide whether Anthony or Harper would be the Harper County seat. Anthony won the courthouse, however, the battle continues today.

Regardless of the past disagreements between their towns, Anthony Medical Center and Harper Hospital officials must look beyond their towns' differences and develop a unified vision to prevent their county from losing its two hospitals.

"We know we have got to build community buy-in," Martha Hadsall, who chairs the Anthony Medical Center board, told KMUW. "We have to develop a clear, combined vision — and we don't have that yet."

The best option for the hospitals is to build a new, combined facility, but that option would likely be met with even greater pushback than a partnership because it would require residents of one of the hospital districts to voluntarily dissolve their district.

"Nobody wants to lose their hospital — the convenience of the clinics right in town, the ERs — we all understand that," Harper Hospital CEO Bill Widener told KMUW. "But the key phrase there is we don't want to lose our hospital. And this merger will give this county the best opportunity to maintain a good hospital and good healthcare right in the county."

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