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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Press Release: County Commissioners Again Turn Down Request For Sales Tax Ballot Question Supporting Public Hospital

The following is a press release from Community Memorial Healthcare submitted to KNDY News.

MARYSVILLE – A motion was made by District #2 commissioner Dave Baier (Waterville, Blue Rapids, Bremen, Oketo and Home areas) at this morning’s Marshall County board of commissioners meeting to put a question on the November ballot for a countywide half-cent sales tax to benefit Community Memorial Healthcare (CMH), to sunset after 5 years. Neither District #1 commissioner Bob Connell (Marysville area) nor District #3 commissioner Lynn Feldhausen (Frankfort, Axtell, Beattie, Summerfield, Vermillion areas) seconded the motion, and the motion failed for lack of a second. This action follows a motion made by Baier at last week’s meeting for a 10 year sunset period, which also failed for lack of a second.

Community Memorial Healthcare had initially approached the county commissioners for their approval to state a ballot question to the public in 2016. Originally having requested a full 1-percent tax (the maximum countywide sales tax able to be collected), CMH was willing to reach a compromise with commissioners, and accept a half-cent sales tax to benefit hospital operations. A motion was made by then-District #3 commissioner Charlie Loiseau, and it too failed for lack of a second. CMH then again approached the board in 2017, where they were met with claims they did not have enough public support on the issue to make a decision, and that commissioners felt the hospital was not being open with their financial records, despite having been given a personal tour of the hospital and specific financial information on the current status of hospital operations and deficits.

In early June this year, CMH distributed a petition available for the public to voice their support of the right to vote on this important issue for county sustainability, and 462 signatures were collected in less than two weeks via word of mouth and an online signature portal via the hospital’s website. Signatures came from all areas of the county, and were submitted to the 2018 board of commissioners, along with a request to again consider adding a sales tax question to the November 2018 ballot. Commissioners stated they did not receive any positive personal responses from the public, questioned the legitimacy of the petition, and again voiced that not enough financial information had been given.

At the board’s request, CMH assembled publicly published 990 tax information for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, and distributed in early July to commissioners, media and the public via the hospital’s website, in hopes that all questions of transparency would be answered. Again, the information was met with questions of legitimacy.

“We do have an annual financial audit performed by a regional certified public accounting firm, BKD,” Hawkinson said. And, several years ago, the CMH board wanted to compare operations with other facilities in the region, he said. “The survey reported CMH was in the top 25 percent on a departmental level when comparing personnel expenses and volumes.”

Additionally, Community Memorial Healthcare has been nationally recognized as one of the “Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals” for both fiscal year 2016 and 2017, which is awarded based on efficiency and quality of services. CMH is one of only 15 hospitals in Kansas to receive the designation this award period.

The CMH board of directors feels that significant effort was put into providing the board of commissioners with information needed to make an informed decision, and that the people of Marshall County deserve to have a voice in the future of their local healthcare, and the economic value of their county.

“We are disappointed by the outcome of today’s meeting, as we hoped the board of commissioners would see the long-term economic impact of local healthcare to the community, and allow the people to voice their opinions on that future,” said Curtis Hawkinson, chief executive officer. “We will continue to dialogue with the public, and advocate for candidates who support the hospital in the upcoming primary and general elections.”

Why does CMH need tax support?
Community Memorial Healthcare had previously stated the need for local sales tax support, following several years of deficits due to uncompensated care. In 2017, CMH had about $1.5 million in charity care. Hawkinson says this is largely due to the high level of un- or underinsured individuals in the county, the lack of expansion of Medicaid in the state of Kansas, and the Medicare funding sequester from the federal government. Because of the lack of reimbursement from the highest levels of government, the task for funding is passed down to the local level, Hawkinson said. In 2014, CMH was one of 13 Critical Access (rural) hospitals in the state not receiving any kind of tax support. Since then, many area hospitals have petitioned the people for sales tax support, and received the vote without issue.

Who owns the hospital?
Established in March 1958, Community Memorial Healthcare celebrated its sixtieth anniversary this spring. During the hospital’s pursuit of seeking a sales tax this year, questions were also brought forth about the ownership and governance of the hospital. According to corporation bylaws and the original founding members of the company, Community Memorial Hospital (as it was then established) was created to serve the people of Marshall County, and as such, is owned by the people. Original donors to the public campaign to build the original hospital facility became life-long “members” of the corporation for any contributions over $100. “Membership” ensured the ability for donors to attend an annual meeting, where members could hear about the financial situation of the company, as well as vote on any bylaw changes and candidates for the board of directors. CMH is a non-profit entity, meaning no donors, board members or executives benefit financially from the organization, whose goal is simply to break even each year. As “membership” from donation is non-transferable after death of the original member, hospital “members” are constantly changing. In recent years, the biggest influx of donors was during the 2010 capital campaign held for costs associated with building the new facility. Today, there are about 275 members. About 20 people attended the annual members meeting held last April.

The board of directors for the hospital is also ever-changing. Bylaws dictate the selection of new board members, which is comprised of twelve residents representing six locational positions. The hospital area is divided into four quadrants by U.S. Highways 36 and 77, with one board member representing the interests of each of the four rural quadrants. Additionally, there are four representatives from the City of Marysville area, and four at-large positions. The Chief of Medical Staff also sits on the board of directors, which is mediated by the chief executive officer. Board members are nominated by a committee of two current board members and three corporate members, and approved at the annual membership meeting. Board members are elected serve a three year term, and are eligible to serve a total of three terms.

Local healthcare is important to economic sustainability and growth
“Local healthcare is an important economic factor for those in rural communities,” said board member Frank Popejoy, who is also a board member for Marshall County Partnership for Growth, an independent economic development non-profit organization. “Schools, healthcare, and other amenities reflecting a strong quality of life are what people are looking at in a community. Communities who do not provide those amenities then will struggle to attract new residents and industry, and eventually be bypassed for other more promising areas.”

Ultimately, Hawkinson said, the future of this county should be up to the people who live and work here, and not decided by three individuals. “As past Marysville Advocate editor Byron Guise said upon the opening of the hospital in 1958, ‘Human life cannot be purchased or sold. The saving of just one life will be worth the entire cost of the hospital… No doubt there will be trying times, but if every person remains loyal to the hospital, it will serve as one of the greatest needs this community ever has had and always will need. Let us resolve now to ever work for the best interests of the hospital, because it belongs to everyone.’”

About Community Memorial Healthcare
Community Memorial Healthcare (CMH) is a private, not-for-profit, 25-bed critical access hospital which receives no local or state tax support. CMH offers emergency, acute care, obstetrics, surgical, ancillary, and outpatient services in addition to three rural health clinics, home health services, a durable medical equipment store, and contract services of physical, occupational and speech therapies, dialysis clinic, and anesthesia.

With over 200 employees, seven family physicians, six nurse practitioners, a general surgeon, a certified nurse anesthetist, and a host of volunteers, CMH shares a commitment to providing quality care for people living and working in Marshall and surrounding counties. Its outpatient referral clinic offers a wide range of specialty services provided by over 37 consulting physicians from Manhattan, Kan., and Lincoln, Neb. Specialist clinics offered include audiology, cardiology, ear, nose & throat, nephrology, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, plastic surgery, podiatry, pulmonology, and urology practices.

CMH is the only hospital in Marshall County, and is a safety net provider of healthcare services to the county and surrounding areas. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year providing care and services to all individuals, regardless of their ability to pay. Each year the hospital provides over $1 million in uncompensated care. Their mission, “To excel at caring for you,” represents a fusion of healing and compassion that signifies CMH’s commitment to meeting the community’s healthcare needs over the past 60 years. Learn more at www.cmhcare.org.

Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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