(News director Tony Abati at Missourinet Nevada affiliate KNEM contributed to this story)

Voters in southwest Missouri’s Nevada have voted to increase their taxes to save their hospital. Tuesday’s half-cent sales tax ballot measure was approved by 89 percent of voters.

Nevada Regional Medical Center (NRMC) is located in southwest Missouri’s Vernon County (2019 file photo courtesy of NRMC)

Dr. Warren Lovinger, who chairs a group called “Citizens United to Strengthen Our Hospital”, tells our Nevada affiliate KNEM (AM 1240) that the vote is a strong community mandate for Nevada Regional Medical Center (NRMC).

“I can honestly say of all the people I had the pleasure of speaking to, it was almost unanimous the support,” Lovinger says. “And in situations where people were concerned, it was a matter of communication.”

The vote will help the 71-bed NRMC pay off its debts. The tax is expected to generate about $800,000 annually, specifically for bond payments.

Nevada Regional is the only hospital between Kansas City and Joplin that delivers babies. Dr. Lovinger tells KNEM he’s ecstatic.

“We feel that the issue sells itself, that we really want to have a hospital and a strong hospital not just now but in the future,” says Lovinger.

Nevada Regional serves six counties and is an acute, intensive and skilled care hospital.

The Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Hospital Association note seven rural Missouri hospitals have closed in the past five years.

Missouri Hospital Association President Herb Kuhn wrote a June column on this very issue.

“When a rural hospital closes, it leads to a daisy chain of events- including the loss of access to hospital and other health services that result in medical deserts. That’s unacceptable,” Kuhn wrote.

The Missouri Hospital Association launched a Reimagine rural health initiative in January, that emphasizes the need for investments in rural health care. Mr. Kuhn says it was influenced by Governor Mike Parson’s (R) rural health summit.

State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, and other House Democrats have called for Medicaid expansion, saying that would help rural hospitals and residents.

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