Working lunch looks back — and into the future

December 11, 2013 by

Nearly 50 Concordians gathered at the Nazareth Motherhouse Wednesday to consider what has grown out of the Community Needs Forums that began five years ago.

But the lunch participants hosted by the Sisters of St. Joseph for the 24th time were equally interested in hearing about the future of the Cloud County Health Center.


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The featured speaker for Wednesday’s “working lunch” was Don Bates, who took over as CEO of the hospital on Oct. 21.

Bates, who was previously CEO of a hospital in Palacios, Texas, and most recently worked as the interim CEO at Trego County Hospital in WaKeeney, Kan., said the question he has heard most since arriving in Concordia is, “Will we get a new hospital?”

His answer Wednesday was, “Yes, but…”

“The typical life of a hospital is 40 to 50 years,” he said, noting that the Sisters of St. Joseph built what was then St. Joseph Hospital 62 years ago.

“But do we need a Taj Mahal?” he asked. “No.

“Do we need another five-story tower? No.

“Do we need an emergency room on the fourth floor? No,” he answered, to the crowd’s laughter.

“What we do need is a hospital that will serve the needs of the community — and we can do that at a fraction of the costs you’ve looked at so far.”

Bates did not offer specifics on what he has in mind, either in terms of a building size or potential cost.

He did announce one major initiative that moved one step closer Tuesday, when the hospital signed a contract with Computer Programs and Systems Inc., a Mobile, Ala.-based software and support company specializing in electronic medical records.

Those electronic records allow Medicare to gather data that then becomes a “report card” for the hospital — and the higher the grade, the higher the reimbursement rate from Medicare.

The hospital is also continuing to recruit medical staff after the departure over the past few months of Dr. Bonnie Cramer, Dr. Travis Jordan and physician’s assistant Edward Dodge.

Dr. Dorothy Breault joined the staff of the Family Health Center in September and Dr. Daniel Garlow will come on board when he completes his residency program in Salina later this year.

Bates, a single father of five adopted sons, said the hospital’s new recruiting materials focus on family and the strengths of a small community.

The focus for Cloud County Health Center, he said, is “quality care, here at home.”

In other reports during Wednesday’s lunch, Sister Jean Rosemarynoski said the Concordia Year of Peace Committee will continue through 2014.

The first Concordia Year of Peace began with Fall Fest 2009, and has since included twice-monthly columns in the Blade-Empire, monthly updates on KNCK radio, the annual Civility Pledge drive and numerous other events and activities geared toward encouraging public civility.

Anyone with ideas for Year of Peace projects or interested in joining the committee is encouraged to contact Sister Jean at 243-2113, ext. 1225, or sisterjean@csjkansas.org.

Tina Walsh, the new director of the Cloud County Resource Center, reminded participants that the Holiday Gift Store for children is set for Thursday, Dec. 12, and Thursday, Dec. 19, at the Recourse Center.

She also noted that the center has winter coats available for people in need.

The Community Needs Forum grew out of informal lunches with the Sisters of St. Joseph in the fall of 2008. In addition to identifying what participants see as the greatest needs in the community, the meetings have established smaller groups to seek solutions.

Some of the programs and projects that have grown out of the process include the Concordia Year of Peace, the Concordia Community Garden of Hope, Hands Across Our Community, the updated Community Resource Guide, a daylong workshop with Dr. Donna Beegle, the 2011 community speakers series, a training workshop for members of nonprofit boards of directors, a “Volunteer Fair” and a number of presentations by experts on local problems.

The quarterly “working lunches” have also provided an opportunity for updates on projects and a clearinghouse for new ideas.
At Wednesday’s lunch, participants were asked to assess the process so far, in terms of what purpose they have served and what benefits people have received because of them. They were also asked for suggestions on how the process should continue and who else should be involved.

Sister Jean and Sister Marcia Allen, president of the Sisters of St. Joseph, will compile the information before setting the date for the next working lunch.

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