A Colorado-based company that is close to ending its hospital administration days in Kansas says it’s business-as-usual for the three primary care clinics it still owns in the state — including one in Kansas City, Kan.
Leaders of SCL Health, formerly known as the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, have said they will close St. Francis Hospital in Topeka if they can’t find a buyer for it soon. The company sold its two other Kansas hospitals, Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., and St. John Hospital in Leavenworth, to for-profit Prime Healthcare Services in 2013.
But while SCL Health is pulling back its Kansas hospital operations to focus on its other markets in Colorado and Montana, spokesman Brian Newsome said via email that the primary care clinics “will remain open as usual.”
Once SCL Health has divested from St. Francis, its only holdings in Kansas will be the Marian Clinic in Topeka, which provides dental care; and the St. Vincent Clinic in Leavenworth and Duchesne Clinic in Kansas City, Kan., which provide medical care.
St. Vincent and Duchesne are combined under the name Caritas Clinics. Their CEO, George Noonan, said SCL Health remains supportive of their operations and recently approved the hire of a new medical director.
“The hospitals thing is really a whole different matter that goes back about two or three years,” Noonan said. “We really are independent of the acute care hospitals.”
Like St. Francis Hospital, the three clinics also showed operating losses on their 2015 tax filings — the most recent available. But their losses were much smaller than St. Francis’ $12 million hit, and they’ve taken steps to change their financial picture.
St. Vincent and Duchesne have traditionally served people who are poor and have no medical insurance. Their tax filing shows a $59,000 loss in 2015, with about $1.99 million in expenses outstripping $1.93 million in revenues. Most of the revenues come from grants and donations. Patients pay a flat rate of $15 per visit.
Noonan said the payment mix is changing. He said the clinics have applied to accept Medicare, which is federal health insurance for the elderly and disabled, and have started the credentialing process to accept Medicaid, which is state-administered insurance that mostly covers low-income children, pregnant women and the elderly and disabled.
He said it’s become necessary to start taking patients with some level of coverage because the organizations giving the larger grants can no longer keep up with rising health care costs.
“We have historically been a free clinic, but the reality is … they say you need to find other revenue streams ’cause we can’t keep sustaining donations from our foundation at the same level,” Noonan said.
In an annual report filed this year with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, Noonan estimated the clinics will need about $2.7 million to run this year. He wrote that the clinics would remain “committed to caring for the poor and vulnerable” no matter how health care policy changes. But he said the changes could present new challenges.
“The state elections in 2016 gave us hope for Medicaid expansion in the state of Kansas because of changes in the legislature,” Noonan wrote. “And yet, the results of the national election and calls to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and end Medicaid expansion leave many questions unanswered. Potentially we could see many more patients in the coming year if there is no viable replacement for the ACA.”
The Caritas Clinics have 21 full-time and eight part-time staff and 240 volunteers. In 2016, they served 1,855 patients. About 80 percent of the patients have chronic medical problems like diabetes, asthma, hypertension and high cholesterol.
The Marian Clinic in Topeka used to do medical care as well, but after sustaining $780,000 in losses in 2014 and $585,000 in 2015, it shifted its focus solely to dental care at the beginning of 2016.
Krista Hahn, the clinic’s leader, said the clinic is now doing well and just hired another dentist.
“I would term it as thriving and seeing quite a few more people than we anticipated this year already,” Hahn said.