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FAQ: Changes to services in St. Marys

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about our recently announced changes to services in St. Marys. We will add to the list as necessary. 

Why did Community HealthCare System make the decision to close emergency services and acute beds in St. Marys?

Utilization of hospital and emergency services in St. Marys has declined for several years running. Low utilization has made it difficult to recruit staff, which has meant CHCS has been forced to rely on travel/agency nursing staff, and this is very expensive. Hospital infrastructure, including call light and telemetry systems, will soon require substantial capital investment. Given other systemwide financial challenges, continuing to operate emergency services and inpatient beds in St. Marys is nearly impossible.

What other options were considered?

Multiple options have been considered for several years. CHCS sought community input in 2019 and 2020 and has worked with consultants in the past to determine how to best move forward in St. Marys. We are limited because of licensure on what we are able to change, and significant capital needs and staffing challenges remain.  

What conditions contributed to the financial challenges?

As a nonprofit, CHCS strives to be a good steward of its resources. The pandemic exacerbated an already difficult situation; patient volumes in clinics have decreased in healthcare nationwide as a result of COVID-19. Revenue from the federal 340B Drug Pricing Program, which has been a significant source of revenue for CHCS, is falling because drug companies are no longer offering required discounts and are taking other actions to undercut the program. The Kansas Legislature has also failed to act on Medicaid expansion, which would help CHCS by providing and estimated $516,000 in additional yearly revenue. All of these items contribute to a difficult financial environment for rural healthcare.

What does this mean for availability of medical services in St. Marys?

  • Primary care and services to support that care (lab; X-ray; physical, occupational, and speech therapy; home health services; and outpatient medication) will remain available through the St. Marys Clinic.
  • Emergency services are available about 15 minutes away in Wamego and about 30 minutes away in either Onaga or Topeka.
  • Hospital services are also available in Onaga, Wamego, and Topeka.

How will St. Marys Manor be affected?

St. Marys Manor will apply to KDHE for a license to provide skilled care as we do at Eastridge so the Manor can offer a higher level of care for residents, which should minimize the need to transfer residents offsite to a hospital.

How many CHCS associates will be laid off because of the change in services?

Six acute nursing positions will be eliminated. CHCS will offer all affected associates an opportunity to apply for other open positions within the system as well as other assistance.

How will other associates at St. Marys be affected?

Ancillary services (lab, imaging, rehab, home health) will remain available. 24-hour coverage will no longer be necessary as a result of the changes, but the positions will not be eliminated.

Does this change affect Onaga Community Hospital or CHCS in other ways?

CHCS is licensed for a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital, with eight beds operated in St. Marys and the remaining beds located at Onaga Community Hospital. Closure of the inpatient beds at St. Marys does not affect CHCS’s hospital license.

Did the CHCS Board of Directors approve the change?

Yes, the CHCS Board of Directors voted to make the changes in St. Marys at its regularly scheduled April meeting, which was April 23, 2021.

What notice is CHCS required to give, and to whom?

CHCS is required to give 30 days’ notice to the public and to KDHE. KDHE was notified by letter on April 26. Public notices will be published in Onaga, Wamego, and St. Marys newspapers in the next week.

How will the former hospital and emergency department space be utilized after those areas close?

CHCS will assess space needs for the clinic, specialty clinics, and other services in the coming months and decide how to best utilize the facility.

Will ambulance service still be located in St. Marys?

We can’t answer that question right now, but we should have more information to share after we have notified EMS.

Is CHCS considering other service or facility closures?

CHCS has no plans to close more services or facilities at this time.

What should I do if I am asked questions about the changes? What about if I have questions that aren’t answered here?

Concerned community members are welcome to ask questions via [email protected].


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