St. Catherine Hospital CEO Scott Taylor stood before employees, stakeholders and community members Monday to review the hospital's accomplishments, programs and, in an answer to one question, legislative changes that could help the institution’s mission and finances.

When Reid Petty, southwest Kansas district director for Sen. Jerry Moran, asked what federal action would help the hospital, Taylor pointed to immigration. “Not an insignificant amount” of the $700,000 the hospital spends a month on uncompensated care goes to undocumented and uninsured residents, he said. Immigration reform could help those residents have more access to insurance and alleviate those costs, he said.

“I would hope that at a federal level that we can reach a consensus on how hard-working individuals that want to immigrate to the United States can do so safely but rapidly and expeditiously so that they can participate in federal assistance programs and hold insurance and have jobs and not have any fear about showing up in emergency departments and seeking the healthcare that they need,” Taylor said in a separate interview.

Like many hospitals, the most substantial legislative issue on the state-level is Medicaid expansion, Taylor said. Opening up Medicaid to more low-income residents would ideally lower the amount of money spent on uncompensated care at all hospitals. For some smaller hospitals in the region, it may be the difference between staying open and closing — for others, it could mean more funds to spend on equipment, staff and services.

As one of the largest hospitals in the region, a delay or block of Medicaid expansion “won’t cripple” St. Catherine, Taylor said, but expansion would be worth several million dollars a year to the hospital.

And the success of the smaller hospitals directly impacts St. Catherine, he said. St. Catherine sponsors 12 critical access hospitals in western Kansas which refer patients to Garden City for specialty care not available in smaller communities. Without them, patients would be far from necessary care and St. Catherine would be inundated with primary care patients from around the region.

“Medicaid expansion is very important to the region as a whole …” Taylor said. “While we can provide specialty services to the largest majority of western Kansas, providing timely and efficient primary care in each of those communities would be a burden that we couldn’t probably meet without partnering with local, smaller hospitals.”

Also during the forum, Taylor discussed the hospital’s status in the community. It is the largest health system offering the widest array of services and, Centura Health, with partnerships in Garden City, Ulysses, Atwood and Goodland, is the largest integrated provider of health care in western Kansas, he said.

He said the hospital partners with several colleges to be the largest training site for nursing programs in the region, is a clinical training site for a dozen different medical fields and provides over $300,000 annually for tuition, scholarships, continuing education and loan repayments for its staff.

At the forum, several partners and community members asked about its education programs and thanked the hospital for its efforts to grow and bringing revenue to the area and directing healthcare and quality of life services at the facility and in the community.

Taylor said in a separate interview that in the near future, the hospital will continue its community and education efforts, develop new partnerships in the region and “make some nice announcements on the physician recruitment front” in the coming months.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.