rural health

Rural hospitals aren’t just providers of medicine and health care, but also are often major employers and a massive part of a town’s tax base. However, mounting challenges are forcing these hospitals to merge and close in droves.

An eleventh-hour payment of $16,644 for delinquent utility bills averted a threatened cutoff of electricity at tiny Hillsboro Community Hospital in central Kansas.

The city, 50 miles north of Wichita and home to about 3,000 people, said in a brief news release that it gave notice to the hospital on Jan. 8 that it would shut off utilities effective at noon Friday. It received the payment in the morning.

Dr. Warner / flickr Creative Commons

Two Kansas hospitals have been selected to take part in a federal demonstration program aimed at ensuring access to health care in underserved areas.

The two, McPherson Hospital in McPherson and Morton County Health System in Elkhart, were among 13 nationwide chosen for the demonstration project being conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Nearly two years after Mercy Hospital closed its doors, the southeast Kansas town of Independence is still without a hospital.

But it may have the next best thing: a new state-of-the-art clinic with an emergency room and a small cancer treatment center.

The nearly $8 million Independence Healthcare Center operates as an extension of Labette Health, a regional hospital about 35 miles to the east in Parsons.

“This is a department of the hospital,” said Labette Health head nurse Kathi McKinney, while giving a tour of the center during its dedication Saturday.

Connor Tarter / flickr Creative Commons

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a new dimension to the urban-rural divide: death rates related to cancer.

Cancer death rates are falling nationwide, but they remain higher in rural areas (180 deaths per 100,000 persons) than in cities (158 deaths per 100,000 persons), according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Alex Smith / Harvest Public Media

Twenty-four-year-old Kalee Woody says that when she was growing up in Bronaugh, Missouri, she saw the small town slowly fading. Businesses closed, growth stagnated and residents had to drive to other places to see a doctor.

It is a town that, like many towns in rural areas of Missouri and other Midwest and Great Plains states, is recognized by the federal government as having a shortage of health care providers.

BRYAN THOMPSON / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

When evening falls, Brian Hunt makes his way to a comfortable chair in a sunroom on the south side of his house near La Cygne, Kansas. But he’s not settling in to relax. He’s going to work.

Bryan Thompson / KCUR

The social and health effects of isolation on some rural Kansas residents spurred three Catholic nuns to convert a storefront in Concordia into a drop-in center where women can find support and resources.

Seven years after the center opened, two dozen women on average come through each day in the town of about 5,000 to socialize, do laundry, get a cooking lesson or simply connect with others.

Andy Marso / KCUR

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback unveiled a two-part plan Friday to bring more doctors to the state and quell health care shortages that he said threaten to kill rural communities.

Brownback, flanked by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a hospital executive and the head of the Kansas Farm Bureau, harkened back to his days growing up in Parker — population 250 — to personalize the push for more rural doctors.

haysmed.com

Extending its growing reach in Kansas, the University of Kansas Hospital has finalized its agreement to partner with Hays Medical Center in the northwest part of the state.

In September, the two institutions signed a letter of intent to join forces, with HaysMed maintaining its name and separate ownership structure.

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