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Hospital wants zoning to block rivals

Staff writer

Hillsboro Community Hospital is asking for a zoning change that would prohibit outside out-of-town medical facilities from locating facilities within the city limits.

Rooker said an out-of-town hospital wanted to open a rival surgical center in Emporia.

Stormont Vail Hospital of Topeka wants to open an ambulatory surgery center in Emporia, which would compete with Newman Regional Health. City planners in Emporia are being urged to address the situation.

“Hillsboro Community Hospital is classified as critical access hospital,” Rooker wrote in a letter presented at Tuesday night’s city council meeting. “Previously your local community hospital has been threatened, and the sustainability of our community hospital at risk due to outside organizations entering the community.

“When other health care organizations propose entering the local rural community to provide additional services, they are often looking to duplicate profitable service lines that are already provided by the local community hospital.

“These organizations call their entry into our local rural community a ‘strategic move’ or ‘plan.’ The strategy often is to create additional revenue streams back to their facility, which does not support the local rural community or county and threatens the long-term sustainability of our local community hospital.”

Rooker said two out-of-town medical providers — Newton Medical Center and Herington Hospital — had come into Hillsboro. The first time, the community was told a clinic would use HCH for expanded services and admissions, but that didn’t happen, Rooker said.

Herington Hospital opened what it said would be a small primary-care clinic but attempted to expand services to include radiology, laboratory, and surgery services, Rooker said.

In both cases, HCH lost a portion of its medical business to the competing clinics, which hurt the hospital’s bottom line.

“Many surrounding communities have adopted similar (zoning) text changes recently, which have allowed those local hospitals to grow and in return offer more services to the community they serve,” Rooker wrote.

City administrator Matt Stiles told council members the proposal would have to go through the city’s planning commission, “but I thought you would want to know about it.”

Mayor Lou Thurston said rural Kansas was “kind of in dire straits as far as health care.” Having competing hospitals ends up costing the community its hospital, he said.

“That would be one thing we would want to do is to protect the hospital,” Stiles said.

It’s unclear whether zoning laws can be used to prevent competition with existing private businesses like HCH.

Last modified Nov. 23, 2023

 

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