McPherson Hospital and Mercy Hospital in Moundridge announced Monday they will pursue a countywide half-cent sales tax.

McPherson Hospital and Mercy Hospital in Moundridge announced Monday they will pursue a countywide half-cent sales tax.
The sales tax issue would be placed on the November ballot and be scheduled to sunset after 10 years. The current sales tax rate for Moundridge and the city of McPherson is 8.15 percent. Lindsborg’s sales tax rate is 8.65 percent.
Lindsborg Community Hospital has decided not participate in the sales tax initiative.
The hospital said Monday in a prepared statement, “Since 2000, Lindsborg Community Hospital has been a beneficiary of sales tax support from the citizens of Lindsborg to assist in paying off building debt. This, along with the current rate of sales tax in Lindsborg, were factors discussed by the Board and Administration of LCH after being approached by McPherson Hospital and Foundation leadership earlier this year. At this time, we have chosen not to participate in the advocacy of a county-wide sales tax.”
McPherson Hospital recently launched a three-phase  capital improvement program. The first phase will include construction of a seven-physician clinic on the second floor of the 1970s wing of the existing hospital. The second phase would update the surgical suites and address needed infrastructure improvements. The third phase would result in the demolition of the 1920s hospital building and construction of a new medical/surgical intensive care unit.
McPherson Hospital also will raise private funds for the program, and already has raised more than $2 million toward the first phase of construction.
In addition to capital improvements, the funds also will be available for operation costs.
“We can’t do our facilities and not invest in our human capital,” Rob Monical, McPherson Hospital president, said.
Drs. Gregory Thomas, Andrea Herrera and Clayton Fetsch all said they support the hospital’s efforts. Mercy Hospital Administrator Doyle Johnson said the Moundridge physicians also are on board with the sales tax initiative.
McPherson Hospital is $1 million in the red this year.
“This has been going on a long time,” Marsha Silver, hospital board member said. “The hospital is struggling, and we have been working hard to keep the doors open. This is next step. We must ask for help from the county.”
Monical attributed the loss to a changing climate in health care. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements are being reduced, yet the federal government is expecting hospitals to meet higher quality and safety standards.
The hospital also has seen a $2 million increase in patients’ bad debt. In addition, McPherson Hospital is experiencing a lower inpatient census, as are many hospitals nationwide.
Hospital officials are hoping hospital improvements and recruiting new physicians will help keep more patients in McPherson. About 49 percent of patients in McPherson Hospital’s catchment are going out of town for care.
Bill Gately, chairman of the McPherson Healthcare Foundation, said the hospital board’s goal is to have the hospital self-sustaining within five years.
“We want to put the hospital in a position to win,” he said.
All three county commissioners were present at the sales tax meeting. They asked for clarification about the hospital’s relationship with Via Christi Health System. Via Christi has had a management contract with the McPherson Hospital for three-and-a-half years, but the hospital is still owned and governed locally.
The agreement has allowed McPherson Hospital to participate in Via Christi’s electronic medical records system, take advantage of group purchasing and utilize recruiting resources. Via Christi will not benefit financially from the McPherson Hospital’s fundraising campaign or the sales tax.
Royce Holdeman, Mercy Hospital CFO, said Mercy is experiencing many of the problems McPherson Hospital is, but in different proportions based on its size.
Holdeman said the hospital has made some capital investments, including moving to electronic medical records. However, Mercy could use the sales tax funds to support the hospital’s operating costs.
A portion of the sales tax also would be used in part to support a clinic for low-income families. A group that sprung from of a Circles of McPherson County committee on health care is evaluating applications from three clinics that would like to expand to McPherson.
McPherson Mayor Tom Brown said other communities have seen decreases in bad debt at local hospitals because of the introduction of clinics for low-income families.
Others in the community also could use the clinic for nonemergency cases, which would take pressure off of community physicians and the emergency rooms.
“We can set the tone for what is going to be done,” Brown said. “All the experts are saying that federal support is going to drastically decrease or end. Local communities and cities can provide long-term solutions. We should not wait until our backs are against the wall. We need to make a move.”