The hunt for good cancer treatment often means miles on the road, time spent waiting and exhaustion from treatment and transit. “The further you have to travel to get care, the less likely that you are going to take that effort to do that,” said Boban Mathew, an oncologist in southeastern Kansas.
Mercy Hospital and the people of Fort Scott, Kansas, have a long, tangled history. To understand what the town lost when the hospital shut its doors, we rewind the story to 1886.
Fort Scott, Kansas, went without an ER for 18 days, after the local hospital shut down. Documenting local trauma during that “dark period” helped investigative reporter Sarah Jane Tribble unravel some of the complications that come after a rural hospital closes.
After Mercy Hospital Fort Scott shut its doors, investigative reporter Sarah Jane Tribble traveled to Kansas and spent time with former hospital president Reta Baker and City Manager Dave Martin — to understand what their town lost.
Listen to “Where It Hurts,” each episode debuting on Tuesdays, from Sept. 29 through Nov. 10. When Mercy Hospital Fort Scott shut its doors, locals lost care. Health workers lost jobs. The hole left behind is bigger than a hospital. Season One is “No Mercy.”
A lack of direction from federal administrators is causing confusion for many hospital administrators. Rural hospitals are among the ones hit hardest.
The proposal details a wide-ranging agenda to remedy the gaps in health care and myriad challenges in rural America. In addition to more telehealth options, it includes shifts in hospital payments and expanded funding for school-based mental health programs.
Rural hospitals were already struggling before the coronavirus emerged. Now, the loss of revenue from patients who are afraid to come to the emergency room, postponing doctor’s appointments and delaying elective surgeries is adding to the pressure.
“Lost on the Frontline” is an ongoing project by Kaiser Health News and The Guardian that aims to document the lives of health care workers in the U.S. who died from COVID 19, and to investigate why so many are victims of the disease.
It’s been about a year since the hospital in Fort Scott, Kan., closed. The lessons for this community about meeting its residents’ health needs could provide insights for the rest of the country.