A rural hospital in mid-Missouri will be shuttered in less than two months if its financial condition can’t be addressed. Calloway County’s Fulton Medical Center announced Monday it would close no later than Sept. 22 because it’s drawing few patients and has a high cost to maintain its facilities.
A number of factors are contributing the hospital’s situation. Leawood, Kansas based NueHealth, which purchased the hospital in partnership with University of Missouri Health Care in 2014, said there were only 12 patients in the facility as of last week. The medical center has 37 beds and employs 158 people.
The Columbia Tribune reported the facility has lost millions of dollars in recent years and has administered a significant amount of care that was not paid for. Fulton and Calloway County officials have been talking to hospital management about a tax to offset the uncompensated care, but no arrangement has yet been made.
NueHealth had hoped to spread operations with a 10 bed, $36 million hospital in Columbia in 2015, but that idea was shot down by a state review board.
Callaway County Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann says the facility, which doesn’t have the capability to perform major surgeries, is competing with a number of bigger operations.
“When you talk about some of the larger hospitals – St. Mary’s, University of Missouri, Boone County – it’s a struggle for a small hospital to try to keep going” said Jungermann.
Despite the facility’s small size, it’s one of the largest employers in Callaway County, which has a population of roughly 44,000.
Fulton Medical Center is not the only small town hospital that’s been in trouble. Since 2010, 80 rural hospitals have closed, including three in Missouri. Those facilities were in Farmington, Osceola and Ellington.
Republican State Senator Jeannie Riddle of Callaway County released a statement Wednesday lamenting the hospital’s closure.
“I am saddened and disappointed to hear that the Fulton Medical Center will be closing its doors in September. The hospital has been a central figure of Callaway County for decades and the loss of services will be detrimental to the community. It is my hope a new entity comes to Fulton to provide important services, such as emergency care, that we are losing with this closure.”
Commissioner Jungermann says the closure of Fulton Medical would devastate a portion of the local community. “To lose that hospital is going to be somewhat detrimental, as least to some of the older people that have been going to the Calloway County Hospital (the facility’s original name) for years. They were born there.”
Likely contributing to NueHealth’s decision close the operation is the loss of its business partner. MU Health told NueHealth it would be selling its 35 percent stake in the hospital last week. The MU system has experienced its own set of problems recently with falling enrollment and reduced funding.
Jungermann says the county and city will work until the last possible moment to find a way to keep the medical center from closing. “I don’t know the exact answer, but we’re not going to give up the fight, because we do care about the 160 employees that are over there and are fixing to lose their job in 60 days.”
University of Missouri Health Care in Columbia and Capital Region Medical Center in Jefferson City are sponsoring a job fair for employees of Fulton Medical Center. It’ll take place 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday at Country Hearth Inn, 556 Amerihost Drive, Fulton.
KSSZ radio contributed to this report