by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | April 30, 2021
Kansas’ Community HealthCare System is shutting the doors of its emergency department and inpatient hospital beds at its St. Marys location in Onaga.
The closures were approved in a vote by the health system's board of directors on April 23 and are set to go into effect on June 4. The St. Marys Clinic will remain open, with physical, occupational and speech therapy; X-ray; laboratory; and home health services still available.
“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,” said CHCS CEO Todd Willert.
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Community HealthCare is a licensed, 25-bed critical access hospital, with eight of the beds at St. Marys and the rest at its other location, Onaga Community Hospital.
The decision was chalked up to low utilization of hospital and emergency department services over several years due to financial and staffing challenges in rural healthcare. Other factors included cuts in lucrative revenue sources, decreases in wellness visits and cancer screenings, costly infrastructure updates, the state’s failure to act on Medicaid expansion, and COVID-19.
Emergency care, however, is accessible in other nearby locations in Onaga, Topeka and Wamego. CHCS also offers beds at Onaga Community Hospital.
The six staff members whose positions were eliminated with the closure can apply for positions elsewhere at CHCS, which runs six other clinics, a skilled nursing facility, an assisted living facility and three fitness centers. It also will offer skilled care at St. Mary’s Manor, which is attached to the clinic and hospital facility and cares for 25 residents.
“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.