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Suit seeks to halt 'illegal' clinic

UPDATED: See BREAKING NEWS

Staff writer

A Herington Memorial Hospital-owned clinic opened in 2019 in Hillsboro, deemed illegal by the state attorney general, prompted a Herington man to file suit Tuesday against the hospital, the city of Herington, and the Herington city commission.

Robert Danzman, an 82-year-old resident of Herington for four years, seeks a Dickinson County District Court ruling that the hospital did not comply with its legal obligations in purchasing, building, renovating, and expanding into Hillsboro.

He also seeks an injunction prohibiting the hospital from operating or making purchases in Hillsboro or doing further construction or renovation unless all applicable laws are complied with. Danzman also asks that Herington residents be given reasonable opportunity for public comment about hospital operations during Herington city commission meetings.

Danzman seeks an order demanding a comprehensive audit and feasibility study of Herington hospital and the Hillsboro clinic be done to evaluate how tax dollars are being spent, the flow of CARES act funding, and whether the Hillsboro clinic should be abandoned.

Danzman earlier questioned a $100,000 donation from the hospital to a Hillsboro community splash pad project, money he suspects came from federal government COVID-19 relief payments.

Danzman said rumors he started hearing in 2020 led to his taking a stand.

“I was perplexed as to why HMH would expand its operations into Hillsboro when Hillsboro already has Hillsboro Community Hospital that provides medical services to Hillsboro residents in its state-of-the-art facility built in 2017,” Danzman said.

Danzman said each tax dollar spent in Hillsboro by HMH is a tax dollar Herington cannot get back even though it is not being used to benefit Herington residents.

Any time the Hillsboro clinic incurs financial loss, the loss would be paid by Herington tax dollars.

Thus, HMH operation in Hillsboro is signing up Herington taxpayers for unknown future liability even though Herington residents do not benefit from the Hillsboro clinic, Danzman said.

Twice Danzman has attempted to speak to city commissioners about his concerns, but to no avail. He was allowed to send a letter to be read at the Dec. 1 meeting.

During a Dec. 11 special meeting of the Herington city commission, commissioners agreed to have city counsel Brad Jantz and a lawyer for the hospital draft a charter ordinance to open the already-operating clinic.

Danzman was put on the agenda for the Dec. 15 meeting, then notified that day he had been taken off the agenda. When he showed up at the meeting anyway, the Herington police chief ordered him to leave.

Hospital financials, a hospital moratorium resolution, and a proposed hospital charter ordinance were on the commission’s Tuesday evening agenda.

As of Tuesday, construction work continued on buildings in the 100 block of S. Main St. the hospital purchased for the clinic, Hillsboro mayor Lou Thurston said.

In a letter to Herington residents, Danzman encouraged residents to contact commissioners to demand they pass a binding resolution requiring the hospital to immediately stop questionable activity by the hospital until the operation is proven to be feasible, legal, and in the best interests of Herington taxpayers; and to order a third-party audit of the hospital to provide a complete and objective financial picture of the hospital and the Hillsboro clinic to determine whether the clinic should be continued or abandoned.

Herington Hospital CEO Isabel Schmedemann was formerly connected a hospital operated by EmpowerHMS, the company that owned HCH before it was put into receivership two years ago after not paying bills. Ultimately the hospital declared bankruptcy.

She was CEO of Fulton County Memorial Hospital in Fulton, Missouri. EmpowerHMS principals were investigated for insurance fraud and several were indicted on federal charges.

Herington Hospital CFO Bryan Coffey was CEO of Hamilton County Hospital at Syracuse before he was fired by the hospital’s board of directors in 2015 because of “financial anomalies.”

Last modified Jan. 8, 2021

 

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