Of the 125 hospitals in Kansas, 76 are at risk of closing, according to a report from the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform.

Abilene Memorial Hospital is not among them, the Board of Directors of Memorial Health System which runs the hospital were informed at the regular meeting Tuesday held at Nichols Education Center.

More than 500 rural hospitals in the U.S. were at immediate risk of closure before the COVID-19 pandemic because of financial losses and lack of reserves to maintain operations, according to the report.

Nearly every state had at least one rural hospital at immediate risk of closure before the pandemic. In Kansas, 72 percent are at risk.

Across the U.S., more than 800 hospitals — 40 percent of all rural hospitals in the country — are either at immediate or high risk of closure with more than 300 hospitals at high risk of closure. 

“We are not on that list?” asked board member Tony Geiger.

Angie Smith, chief nurse, said Abilene was not on the list.

“Criteria had to be persistent financial losses for the last three years, low or nonexistent financial reserves, and high dependence on nonpatient revenues,” she said.

Nonpatient revenues are hospitals that receive large amounts of funding from local taxes and state subsidies, she said.

Memorial Health System does receive funds from a 2 mill levy of property taxes in the hospital district.

Elgin Glanzer, chief financial officer, said despite the reduction in services because of COVID-19, Memorial Health System operated 2020 in the black.

Helping the bottom line was COVID-19 grants.

MHS’s operating revenue was $32.8 million. The expenses were $35.7 million. But grants of $2.9 million resulted in a bottom line of $23,278.

Memorial Health also has 256 days of cash in hand.

The January report showed services are bouncing back but slowly.

“In March, April, May and June people stopped coming to the hospital,” Glanzer said.

That also included the Heartland Health Clinic. The walk in clinic which expanded to evening hours also had fewer visits.

“We aren’t seeing a lot of flu,” Harold Courtois, chief executive officer.

“I think there is still a lot of fear to see a doctor,” he said. “People fear coming in.”

He said there are people “living like hermits” who are afraid of COVID-19.

Courtois said that if too many rural hospitals close, the larger hospitals couldn’t handle the influx.

“You take Beloit, Clay County, Minneapolis, Abilene, Herington, McPherson and you take all of those primary care patients and you eliminate those hospitals, Salina couldn’t handle it,” he said. “Even Wichita couldn’t handle it.”


Insulin price spike

Courtois said that drug manufacturers have been aggressive in dismantling the 340B drug program which assists low income and Medicaid patients with prescription drugs.

The price of insulin in the Abilene area went from $13 to $30 copay covered by 340B. The costs now are between $200 and $500.

“This couldn’t happen at a worst time,” Courtois said.

Dr. Bill Short, chief medical officer, said some people are just going without insulin.

“Who wants them to go without? That is just going to increase the cost of care and it’s going to create extra deaths,” Courtois said.

“How long can a person go without insulin?” Geiger asked.

“It just depends on the person,” Short said. “They could go a long time but that is just going to have long-term effects.”

“Where is this going to end?” Geiger asked.

“I don’t know how it is going to end, Tony,” Courtois said. “I am worried about that. I think HHS’s (Health and Human Services) lack of determination to stop this is utterly disgusting. They are the agency in charge of this and they should have stopped it. All they had to say was that you are in violation. We’re going to fine you millions of dollars if you don’t turn it around. Make them follow the regulations.

“This has to do with people’s lives,” he said.

“We need to get our pharmacies together to see what needs to happen. It may not be pleasant,” Courtois said.

“It’s just going to trickle down,” Smith said. “It started with insulin the first of the year then we are going to respiratory meds, autoimmune medication.”


Village Manor

There were not positive COVID-19 tests among the residents or staff at Village Manor but the nursing home is still not accepting visitors, said Andrea Taylor, chief operating officer.

There are currently 57 residents.

Taylor said in 2020 there were 44 deaths of which seven were related to the coronavirus.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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