Hospitals across the nation, from large health systems to small rural hospitals, are feeling the challenges of a complicated and unstable health care environment. Even McPherson Hospital is experiencing change.
Effective Wednesday, May 31, 2017, the management agreement between McPherson Hospital and Via Christi Health in Wichita has been dissolved, which is about four years prior to the original agreement period. This means that all management operations of the hospital are back under hospital administration and the board of trustees. Paul Taliaferro, Chairman of the Board of Trustees said, “When we began the management agreement with Via Christi, it was felt at the time that it was a necessary action for us to take to remain a viable hospital in the volatile healthcare environment. For many years, we saw some positives from that relationship. Over time, however, unforeseen situations arose for both organizations that caused us to reevaluate our directions and agree to move ahead separately.”
Taliaferro has also announced that as part of the hospital’s dissolution of the management agreement with Via Christi Health, Rob Monical will no longer be serving the community as CEO of the hospital. During this transition, Terri Gehring, Chief Operating Officer, will serve as Interim CEO.
Gehring said, "We appreciate the many years that Rob has served this hospital and our community. We will continue to uphold our core values and mission of providing exceptional health care to the families in our area."
McPherson Hospital officials report that over the last few years, they have successfully implemented an intentional growth plan. Specific initiatives include new services lines, upgraded facilities and investments into staff development. However, despite this growth in operational infrastructure, there continue to be challenges related to the hospital’s financial strength.
Gehring said, “While the county tax support has helped fund growth to provide more services for the community, increasing operating costs and declining revenues continue to affect our bottom line. Investments into clinic space, rising expenses related to charity care and bad debt along with a relatively low patient census have taken a toll on our financial situation.”
She added, “We are in a cycle of evolution in health care and delivery of that care is different than the old model. In order for us to remain viable, we must move into new models of care. Some of that has already happened such as opening and expanding access to an urgent care clinic and the addition of physicians in the McPherson community. But some well-known traditional services must also be scaled back due to decreased demand.”
A short-term plan to reduce some services and overall labor expense over the next year has been implemented. This reduction in staffing expense was developed in such a way that bed-side care would not be impacted.
The plan also includes not filling some positions that become vacant through attrition, along with general reductions in departmental expenses. Other reductions include savings through realigning and streamlining some operational functions.
Failure to make these changes could jeopardize their viability, which would not be responsible to the community. “These are difficult but necessary decisions in order for us to continue to strategically provide care,” Gehring said.
Gehring also stated that factors out of the hospital’s control such as the state’s inability to pass the Kancare Medicaid expansion bill and declining reimbursements have also affected revenues.
Despite these economic challenges, hospital officials have responded to the needs of the community with several new initiatives, buoyed by the support of McPherson County residents.
In the fall of 2014, the McPherson Healthcare Foundation launched a capital campaign entitled Caring for the Future, specifically targeted to fund the construction of a new physician clinic facility. The building will house all of the hospital’s family medicine physicians, other providers and staff. The campaign concluded recently with the successful realization of the $5 million goal.
In conjunction with the campaign launch, McPherson County voters approved a 10 year, ½ cent sales tax increase to help support the county hospitals with facilities improvements, operational expenses and community wellness operations.
Since that time, McPherson Hospital has created the McPherson Urgent Care Clinic. This required upgrading some of the infrastructure to the building housing the clinic at 823 North Main. The clinic initially opened with primarily evening and Saturday hours but soon expanded to weekday hours, which necessitated additional clinic staff.
Providers employed by the hospital have risen from 3 to 20. This includes the addition of a hospitalist service, the physicians and providers at Family Practice Associates, and the creation of an OB/GYN women’s clinic.
“With the addition of these physicians, along with physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other professional support staff, our efforts to add more medical staff positions at the hospital to serve our community are seeing results in significant ways with regard to patient care,” Gehring said.
These additional services created the immediate need for upgraded facilities to accommodate the staff and patients. “Knowing that we couldn’t wait for a new medical office building to add these services, we needed to move ahead with renovating some existing spaces over the last few years to allow for appropriate care to take place,” added Gehring. “Using a combination of our own staff and some outside labor, we were able to provide adequate clinic space until the new building is completed.”
“Progress has always come with change, both exciting and difficult at the same time,” commented Gehring. “That is what we as a community hospital are currently undertaking and we appreciate the enormous support of this progressive community. As in any business, we rely on our residents to utilize our services. And McPherson Hospital is committed to providing the highest quality care for our community. Currently, that means some short-term adjustments to our operations in order to ensure the best use of current resources. The community can remain confident in our dedication to our mission, ‘Superior health care and exceptional service for each person, every time.’”