Critically ill rural patients are often sent to city hospitals for high-level treatment, and as their numbers grow, some urban hospitals are buckling under the added strain. Meanwhile, mask-wearing and other pandemic prevention measures remain spotty in rural counties.
In Fort Scott, Kansas, the Community Health Center’s big green-and-white sign replaced Mercy Hospital’s name on the front of the town’s massive medical building. In the final chapter of Season One: “No Mercy,” we have an appointment to see what’s inside.
Having a child with a food allergy is terrifying for any parent, but for low-income families such allergies can be especially deadly. Food assistance programs and food pantries rarely take allergies into account. And access to specialists, support groups and lifesaving epinephrine can be hard to attain. This especially hurts low-income Black children, who have higher incidences of allergies to corn, wheat and soy than white kids.
Meet Josh. He’s a teenager in Fort Scott, Kansas, who dropped out of high school around the same time the town’s hospital closed. He says those two things are related.
The hunt for good cancer treatment often means miles on the road, time spent waiting and exhaustion from treatment and transit. “The further you have to travel to get care, the less likely that you are going to take that effort to do that,” said Boban Mathew, an oncologist in southeastern Kansas.
Mercy Hospital and the people of Fort Scott, Kansas, have a long, tangled history. To understand what the town lost when the hospital shut its doors, we rewind the story to 1886.
Fort Scott, Kansas, went without an ER for 18 days, after the local hospital shut down. Documenting local trauma during that “dark period” helped investigative reporter Sarah Jane Tribble unravel some of the complications that come after a rural hospital closes.
After Mercy Hospital Fort Scott shut its doors, investigative reporter Sarah Jane Tribble traveled to Kansas and spent time with former hospital president Reta Baker and City Manager Dave Martin — to understand what their town lost.
Listen to “Where It Hurts,” each episode debuting on Tuesdays, from Sept. 29 through Nov. 10. When Mercy Hospital Fort Scott shut its doors, locals lost care. Health workers lost jobs. The hole left behind is bigger than a hospital. Season One is “No Mercy.”
A lack of direction from federal administrators is causing confusion for many hospital administrators. Rural hospitals are among the ones hit hardest.