Tuesday, May 29, 2018

How a struggling rural Kansas hospital reversed its fortunes

Wikipedia map, adapted
Four years ago, the Kearny County Hospital in rural Kansas was struggling. Patients had to be turned away because there weren't enough doctors to treat them, and the maternity ward was losing $100,000 a year. For Lakin, a town of 2,200 that's one of the nation's most remote, hospital expenses were unsustainable. The usual solution in such cases is to stop delivering babies, but the county commissioners wanted to try something different, and their gamble paid off, Lisa Rab reports for Politico.

First, they hired an innovative young CEO, 38-year-old Ben Anderson. He attracted talented new doctors who wanted to deliver babies in developing countries, telling them they could do that in Kansas by serving the immigrants and refugees who worked at a nearby meatpacking plant or on farms. After the new doctors came, Anderson got grants to upgrade the hospital and bring in a high-risk pregnancy specialist. The new equipment and doctors brought in immigrants and wealthier patients from nearby towns, and the increased hospital births (from 187 in 2014 to 327 in 2017) brought in more money: The hospital new serves about 20,000 patients per year, up from 10,000 in 2012, and generated $23.4 million in revenue in 2017.

"In the span of five years, Anderson has turned the hospital into the county’s largest employer, with a profitable maternity ward that draws patients from as much as two hours away for its superior care," Rab reports. "I think it’s a huge success story," County Commissioner Shannon McCormick told Rab. "When you’re alive and thriving and all your neighbors are not—you’re doing something good."

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