Hospital meeting held Tuesday brings out passion in panel

By Nick Gosnell
October 21, 2014

Passionate advocacy for McPherson Hospital was on display on Tuesday night at the McPherson Opera House as Hospital staff, board members, and stakeholders brought information to the public on the three phase project which includes a capital campaign along with a proposed half-percent sales tax on the November ballot.

One of the main questions addressed by the panel on Tuesday was local control of the finances of the hospital.

Hospital board chair Marsha Silver said, "I had somebody ask me, 'whose pocket are we padding? who's getting this money?' We are a non-profit hospital. If we were to make money, which we are not, it would go back into the hospital."

Silver also noted that the two governing boards are all unpaid volunteers.

Silver added, "There is nobody making money off of this tax deal. We are trying to keep your hospital open, vibrant, alive and progressive."

Via Christi manages McPherson Hospital, but that doesn't mean what most think it means.

Silver explained, "They have no ownership. They will never have any ownership, and all decisions are made at the local board level. There are three people at the hospital who wear a Via Christi badge. However, they report to the board, they're hired by the board, they're fired by the board."

The reason a management agreement was entered into had to do with Federal regulation.

Silver said, "What was key about that Via Christi thing happening was the Federal mandates that were coming down on all the computerized systems that hospitals had to meet or close. We could not have done that by ourselves."

Silver explained that Via Christi had one more slot left on their computer system that the management agreement allowed McPherson to take and kept the hospital open.

Silver continued, "There's only like 45 hospitals in the state that are our size. We're called tweeners, and we're disappearing. We're not small enough to get all the government benefits available, and we're not big enough to do it on our own."

General Surgeon Dr. Tyler Hughes explained why the sales tax vote is vital in his professional opinion.

Hughes said, "I've been practicing here for almost twenty years. It went from a situation where we basically said, what do we want to get next to a group of things, in the past five or six years, it's been fouling off fastballs, trying to stay alive. I see services start to pare down and have to move out of town. Services that are important. It's killing me watching that happen."

Hughes added, "It's agony to a physician when we realize I could have done something for this community member here. If I could make the biggest plea, that's who it's about."

Hughes concluded, "It's about the money, because we couldn't do those things without the money. The only way we can control our fate is to adjust the money the best we can, as fairly as we can, to provide as many services as we can to all the members of our community, and it's getting tougher every day."

McPherson Hospital CEO Rob Monical added, "There's not a single doctor in this room that would tell you I got into this for the money. They got into it to take care of patients. They wanted to take care of people."

The sales tax question on the ballot November 4 reads as follows:

Shall the following be adopted?

Shall McPherson County, Kansas be authorized to impose a one-half percent (.5%) County-wide retailers' sales tax, the proceeds of which shall be divided between and paid seventy-five percent (75%) to McPherson Hospital, Inc. ("McPherson") and twenty-five percent split evenly between Mercy Hospital, Inc., Moundridge, Kansas and Lindsborg Community Hospital, Lindsborg, Kansas and used (1) by any recipient to finance the cost of acquiring, constructing, equipping and furnishing certain alterations, modifications and improvements to their capital equipment and facilities; (2) by any recipient to finance the costs of acquiring, construction, equipping and furnishing certain alterations, modifications and improvements to a medical arts building; and (3) to support the general operating expenses of any recipient. The collection of such sales tax will commence on April 1, 2015 and terminate ten (10) years after its commencement, all pursuant to the provisions of K.S.A. 12-187 et seq.

At current collection rates, the proposed sales tax would net one million six hundred fifty thousand dollars per year for McPherson Hospital and two hundred seventy five thousand dollars per year each for Moundridge and Lindsborg hospitals.