LETTERS: Hospital CEO addresses concerns about new hospital

To the Editor:

I have heard that there is some confusion regarding the hospital's building plans. There is also some concern regarding the need and funding associated with a "new" hospital. I've also spoken with some supportive community members inquiring about the "groundbreaking" and when and where the new hospital will be built. Although this makes great coffee conversation, I'd like to take this opportunity to clarify some misunderstanding and dispel some presumptive assumptions about St. Luke's future building plans.

St. Luke needs a significantly remodeled and updated facility which will allow for the better accommodation of the departments, services, staff, and providers required of our patient population. We will determine what a "significantly remodeled and updated facility" will look like during the facility master planning process. Your opinion is important, and we will publicize public forums or town hall meetings regarding the master planning project.

Administration and the board of directors are aware that there are concerns regarding the means of funding of any new project. There are several funding mechanisms available that do not involve taxing.

Do we expect you to fund a "new" hospital? Yes, through the usage of new and better health care services offered in Marion.

So, why do we need to update our facility now? The simple answer is that St. Luke has a functional facility, but we need to adapt it to meet the needs of our changing health care market. The following paragraphs will highlight some of our urgent issues.

Code compliance

The majority of St. Luke was built before 95 percent of the codes which regulate our industry today were created. We are in compliance with current life safety and fire codes but only because of waivers which have grandfathered our facility for many years. The state fire marshal has indicated that it is only a matter of time before hospitals and nursing homes will be required to sprinkler their buildings. Some states are giving their facilities one year to comply or be shut down. Kansas is not there yet, but it only takes one bill to change that.

Handicapped accessibility is a concern as we provide care for more and more patients with limited mobility. Although we have made some accommodations with automatic doors, parking ramps, and a few wheelchair accessible bathrooms, we still have barriers. There is no question that our current facilities make it more difficult for us to provide care to those who are handicapped in some fashion, let alone those who are confined to a wheelchair.


Specialty physicians doing outreach are critical to the long-term success and survival of any small rural hospital. The problem is that specialists are less and less willing to spend time in outreach clinics. If we expect specialists to take time from their "home" clinics, then we need to exceed their expectations concerning need, staff, equipment, and facilities. We can offer three out of four, and they're still not coming.

Physicians completing residency are being bombarded by tens if not hundreds of practice opportunities, opportunities which often promise more money, less ER call, and better facilities than are available at St. Luke. If St. Luke expects to successfully recruit a physician, we had better meet or exceed expectations in two of the three. If we want to keep that physician for more than three years, St. Luke must meet all three expectations.

More space and new services

If you have been treated in the physical therapy (PT) department, you have firsthand experience of our struggles with a lack of space. Current PT volumes require that our PT department have at least a 400 percent increase in square footage. Without a significant remodel, our best option is to split the department into two separate treatment rooms. This is not preferred or efficient for staff; however, current facility design has made this the best option once a second PT is hired.

There are new services that St. Luke would like to offer but cannot because of a lack of space. not lack of staff, lack of equipment, or lack of need — lack of space.

Perhaps the most important reason why St. Luke needs to move forward with a building project is because of YOU. A significant number of you who are reading this are seeking health care elsewhere. Why is that?

Is it because St. Luke doesn't offer cardiac rehab, hydro therapy, or dialysis? Is it because St. Luke doesn't offer an outreach pediatrician, orthopedic surgeon, or endocrinologist? We understand that if St. Luke is not meeting your medical care needs, some other facility will.

The board of directors and St. Luke staff will be working, through this master plan, to better meet your health care needs — in Marion.

Jeremy Armstrong, CEO

St. Luke Hospital & Living Center