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Hospital Sales Tax Renewal on 2024 McPherson County Ballot


By Lucky Kidd


McPHERSON, Kan. Renewal of a half percent sales tax supporting the three hospitals in McPherson County will be on the ballot in 2024. The exact date is yet to be determined. Funds from that tax are vital to the financial well being of the county’s acute care facilities.

During an update from McPherson Center for Health, Lindsborg Community Hospital and Mercy Hospital in Moundridge presented to McPherson County Commissioners Monday, McPherson Hospital CEO Lewis Newberry said the three hospitals will ask for a special election to renew a tax approved in 2014 and scheduled to sunset in March, 2025.

At one point the hospitals had looked at having the question put on the ballot at this November’s city and school elections. However, they decided to hold off due to the likelihood McPherson USD 418 will be submitting a bond question at that time.

Newberry said they would have preferred to have the renewal voted on during the Presidential Preference Primary currently scheduled for March. However, McPherson County Clerk Hollie Melroy said the Kansas Secretary of State is asking that no other questions be submitted to voters at that time.

Melroy added there is still some question as to whether the primary will even happen. When the Kansas Legislature adopted legislation to have the primary, the Kansas Democratic and Republican parties were given the option to participate or not participate. They have until December to make their decision.

Each hospital administrator also provided the County Commission an update on their operations. Newberry said the McPherson hospital has been able to hire more registered nurses and certified nursing assistants of late reducing reliance on contract nurses, also known as traveling nurses.

Traveling nurses are still being used to fill some specialized positions such as surgery, but being able to hire more nurses on staff is significantly helping their bottom line.

Mercy Hospital Administrator Aaron Herbel also said they are using fewer contract nurses with that level about a fourth of what it was a year ago. However, Herbel noted costs for health care continue to increase. In the case of Mercy Hospital, they have seen a 61 percent increase in cost of operations since 2019, and a seven percent year over year increase. Revenues meanwhile went up just 24 percent in the past four years. 8.3 percent in the past year.

Herbel said one thing Mercy’s board is exploring is a possible new model for hospital operations. One concept being looked at would discontinue acute care services while continuing to provide emergency and outpatient services.

Under a rural emergency hospital designation under Medicare, they would still be able to maintain their skilled care facility which in their case is separately licensed. In return, Medicare would provide a fixed monthly payment to cover overhead costs. Herbel said this concept is still in the early discussion stages.

Lindsborg Community Hospital Administrator Larry Van Der Wege told Commissioners while their acute and skilled days through the first nine months of their fiscal year are down by about three percent, outpatient visits have increased by 3.4 percent. Van Der Wege said they continue to rank in the upper percentiles of an independent survey on patient quality.

LCH has also added an outpatient program on holistic pain management, which addresses chronic pain issues and they have also brought back a fall reduction program senior citizens avoid falls, which is the number two reason people come to the hospital.