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Community HealthCare System to adjust services in St. Marys

Community HealthCare System will adjust available services in St. Marys effective June 4, 2021, at 8:00 a.m. Changes will include the closure of emergency department and inpatient hospital beds in St. Marys. The St. Marys Clinic will remain open, and other services such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy; X-ray; laboratory; and home health will remain available.

The Community HealthCare System, or CHCS, Board of Directors voted to close the St. Marys emergency department and inpatient hospital services at its most recent meeting. According to CEO Todd Willert, the decision was made because of low utilization of hospital and emergency department services for several years running, because of an increasingly challenging financial and staffing environment in rural healthcare, and because the area has other options for hospital care and emergency services.

“We have closely monitored utilization of hospital and emergency services and have seen steady declines in the last several years. We’ve also had difficulties recruiting and retaining hospital staff because of that low utilization,” Willert said.

Unavoidable upcoming investments in the aging facility and its infrastructure coupled with decreased revenues associated with the pandemic made continuing to operate the hospital nearly impossible, Willert said.

CHCS is licensed for a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital, with eight beds operated in St. Marys, and remaining beds located at Onaga Community Hospital, which is about 25 miles northwest of St. Marys. The six staff members from St. Marys whose positions were eliminated will be provided with an opportunity to apply for positions elsewhere at CHCS, which also operates six other clinics, a skilled nursing facility, an assisted living facility, and three fitness centers in addition to the services offered in St. Marys.

CHCS also plans to offer skilled care at St. Marys Manor, which is attached to the clinic and hospital facility. The Manor currently houses and cares for 25 residents.

“Caring for our nursing home residents is a primary concern, and we’ve started down the path to obtaining the necessary approvals and certifications to offer a higher level of care to St. Marys Manor residents. This will help replace hospital services if residents need skilled care, and we have the staff who are qualified and ready to provide that care,” said Lura Flentie, CHCS director of long-term care services.

CHCS will continue to evaluate the healthcare model that best fits the community of St. Marys. Emergency services remain available about 15 minutes to the west in Wamego and about 30 minutes away in either Onaga or Topeka. The St. Marys Clinic will continue to provide primary care, and important services that support that care such as X-rays, laboratory tests, and physical, occupational, and speech therapy will remain available at the St. Marys facility.

Challenges associated with healthcare delivery in rural areas remain pressing.

“The pandemic exacerbated an already precarious situation in healthcare. In the past year, we’ve seen drastically reduced revenues from areas we had previously counted on, such as the federal 340B Drug Pricing Program, as well as decreased numbers of wellness visits, cancer screenings, and other healthcare services. The state has also failed to act on Medicaid expansion. Eliminating services is not something we do lightly, but in this case, we felt it the most appropriate action to protect the financial health of our organization and the range of services we offer across a large area of northeast Kansas,” Willert said. 


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  • Theresa Hamilton, RN | Apr 27th 2021 @ 8:03 PM

    Very disappointing news for St Mary's that what was once a growing healthcare facility providing Emergency and Hospital Services which saved many lives over the years, and provided care close to home, has not been able to continue to survive in a thriving community that seems only to continue to grow.

  • Kim Kleinsmith | Apr 28th 2021 @ 11:57 AM

    CHO decided to put all their money into Onaga and didn't bother putting any money into St. Marys. Its always been the red-headed step-child down here. St. Marys is growing and the fact that you have now closed down our ER Room is ridiculous!!!!! We are a growing community down here and now everyone will just go to Wamego and guess what you will still loose money!!!

  • Amy Fordham | May 4th 2021 @ 6:38 PM

    Stupid,stupid. I will never set foot in Onaga. If I have to drive 25 miles,Stormont Vail will get my money. As the child of an elderly parent who cannot drive out of town,and has used the ER,what will she do now? Call an ambulance every time? Have to pay someone to drive? What about unstable patients who need urgent care before transport? Total BS. Good to know how they really feel. We can take all of our medical needs elswhere.

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