By Morgan Chilson, September 15, 2016
Alma and Lyndon residents will lose local health care access in the next four months after Stormont Vail Health announced it would shutter regional clinics in those small towns.
Officials said the 4 percent Medicaid cuts and the state’s failure to expand Medicaid were primary factors in the organization’s decision.
The Cotton O’Neil Lyndon clinic will close Dec. 31 and the Cotton O’Neil Alma clinic will close Jan. 31, 2017, said Nancy Burkhardt, Stormont Vail spokeswoman.
“That is going to hurt our little town. Wow. That’s news to me,” said Lyndon Mayor Chris Cole when he heard the clinic would close. “I know there are several, including myself, who use that office quite a bit. We were very encouraged and excited when the clinic opened. It is disappointing to hear that our community will lose local access to these much needed medical services. Many of our residences are low-income and have limited access to transportation.”
“We want the people of Lyndon and Alma, and the surrounding area, to know that this decision was not made lightly,” said Randy Peterson, Stormont Vail president and CEO. “However, the current 4 percent Medicaid cuts, which totaled $3 million in reduced reimbursement for Stormont Vail Health, along with the impact of the state’s failure to expand Medicaid, makes it difficult to continue to fund these community clinics.”
Burkhardt said 800 patients utilize the Alma clinic and 1,900 go to the Lyndon clinic.
The decision to close the clinics because of reduced reimbursements was made so that Stormont Vail could put services where they reach the most people, Burkhardt said.
Cole said he switched to the Lyndon clinic for his primary care.
“We were just getting used to having it here,” he said, adding: “This office employed local Lyndon citizens, who I assume will now need to find work elsewhere. This is not good news for us.”
In its release, Stormont Vail said it would be “making every effort” to provide employment for staff affected by the clinic closures.
Although Lyndon area users will be encouraged to go to nearby clinics, including one in Osage City, which is about 10 minutes away, Cole said he understood it can be difficult to get in to see providers at that clinic.
When told of Stormont Vail’s explanation for the closure in the organization’s news release, Cole said simply, “So, politics.”
Carbondale and Lebo also have clinic locations that would be open for Lyndon-area residents, Stormont said in its release. The Alma clinic patients can be seen in Wamego, Rossville and Manhattan clinics; Diana Katt, M.D., whose practice was in the Alma clinic, is relocating to the Cotton O’Neil Wamego clinic and will continue to see her patients there.
All patients will receive a letter describing how to transition their care, the Stormont Vail release said.