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6401 Patterson Parkway
Winfield, KS, 67156
United States


CEO Looking Forward to Hospital's Future

June 24, 2016

The past year has been a roller coaster ride for South Central Kansas Medical Center and new CEO Virgil Watson. Watson took over in January of 2015 and has since overseen some significant milestones for the hospital, as well as faced challenging obstacles.

The past year has been a roller coaster ride for South Central Kansas Medical Center and new CEO Virgil Watson. Watson took over in January of 2015 and has since overseen some significant milestones for the hospital, as well as faced challenging obstacles.

The medical center along with its off campus clinic, South Central Kansas Clinic, finished 2015 with a total loss of $1.9 million and were forced to ask for assistance from the City of Arkansas City in making both the August 2015 and February 2016 bond payments related to construction of the five year old facility.

The loss prompted hospital leadership to seek a one-percent sales tax to fund the bond payment for the next ten years. A grass roots education campaign, which included volunteers going door-to-door to speak with voters, proved to be extremely successful as the vote passed in May with an eighty-percent approval rating.

“(The sales tax) will give us security knowing that the bond payment, the building, will be paid for, for at least the next ten years. And give us an opportunity to actually have reserves, and grow those reserves over the years so that we can guarantee payment for the rest of the life of the bonds,” said Holly Harper, SCKMC’s Chief Financial Officer.

Watson is using the success of the sales tax vote as a spring board to re-energize the hospital’s other on-going projects.                                

“We have a lot of work to do. A lot of things to accomplish, but at least we won’t have to worry about paying the bonds. I think it will make all of the difference in the world moving forward. The revenue that we need in order to support the rest of the operations, that is what we have to focus on now,” Watson said.

The hospital receives revenue through a variety of sources; however the majority comes through State and Federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. To improve funding through these sources SCKMC applied for and received approval to change their status to a sole community hospital.

Sole community hospital status opens the doors to several other State and Federal reimbursement programs. Hospital staff plans on using the status to apply for at least two other programs that could bring a significant increase to the hospital’s revenue, including the 340B pharmacy program which alone could bring an additional $500,000 in reimbursements.

“When they look at (sole community status), they can see we’re dependent on the Federal and State programs so it really helps us with the disproportionate share payments and other programs to keep the reimbursement for the small hospitals. But this was a stepping stone into the 340B program. We are also working on the rural health clinic status for our downtown clinic, and that’s another $400,000 potentially for the hospital,” Harper said.

Both the 340B and rural health clinic programs are in the final stages of approval.

“It will be a huge benefit for the hospital. It’s a really big step in the right direction, getting increased reimbursement. We will be able to provide more for our patients, our employees, and to the community,” Harper said.

Physician recruitment is the other essential focus of hospital administration as they plan for long term success. With the addition of two new providers over the past year, Dr. Adam Keesling and Dr. Willie Posey, SCKMC still seeks to recruit more general medicine providers to the community.

“As (physicians) retire, we may need to replace three more physicians in the near future and we need to prepare ourselves for that financially, and from a recruiting standpoint. It needs to be an ongoing, long-range program that involves all of the community of Arkansas City and not just the hospital,” Watson said.

In response to that challenge, the hospital has put together a group of local individuals to assist with a long term recruiting plan from a community perspective.

“I like to call it a team because the responsibilities are more than just a committee. Our recruiting team has a couple of responsibilities, one to identify those things within our community that we can use to help sell Ark City to potential physician candidates. Then there is a part of our community that we need working on a continuing basis to raise money to recruit doctors so that we have a fund that we can go to and have the money to pay physicians and attract them to Arkansas City, Kansas,” Watson said.

Watson believes the recruitment team will help Arkansas City stand out among a sea of competition for medical providers.

“We are in competition with all the other communities our size to get trained medical professionals to come to our community to set up practice. We have to come up with things that make us unique from all these other people. We have to market that this is a perfectly sized community to start a medical practice. There are more than enough patients but you won’t be overwhelmed to a point it interrupts your quality of life. Here you can have a life outside of being a doctor,” Watson said.

Predicting that declining reimbursements will always be a struggle for rural facilities, medical center administration believes the success of all the ongoing initiatives will stabilize and eventually secure the hospital long term.

“We are making the changes we need to make within our organization, and change is never easy. I’ve been encouraged each day to think that we have a great future. We provide excellent care to the patients who use our facility. I’m looking forward to exciting things for the rest of this year,” said Virgil Watson, SCKMC’s Chief Executive Officer.