A Kansas City company that owns rural hospitals in mid-Missouri’s Fulton and Mexico is investing millions of dollars into the two facilities, and is working with both communities on their health care needs.
Former Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield), who runs the new Noble Health Foundation, says the Fulton and Mexico hospitals were both in danger of closing, before Noble Health came in.
“You know when they (Noble) took over the hospital in Callaway County, that was about a week from closing down. The hospital in Audrain (County), same situation, it was in a pretty challenging spot. And what they’ve done is they’ve made a really significant investment into both of those hospitals,” Haahr says.
The Missouri Hospital Association says ten rural hospitals have closed across the state, since 2014. That includes Pinnacle Regional Hospital in mid-Missouri’s Boonville.
The Noble Health Foundation is focused on improving rural health care and on innovative solutions to rural health care issues. Both Mexico and Fulton have large elderly populations, and Haahr says Noble is listening to the communities about what they need.
“When you start thinking about an ambulance that picks somebody up and they have to make a decision do I take them to the hospital in Fulton that’s five minutes away or to the hospital in Columbia that’s 30 minutes away? Well we want them to take them to the hospital in Fulton, because it’s so close,” says Haahr.
He says that means Noble must offer the type of health care services that residents need for the ambulance to take them them to Fulton.
Haahr, who grew up on a family farm, emphasizes that Noble doesn’t want to be a management company. He says they want to own the hospitals and the dirt they’re on, and suggests that’s been an issue for rural Missouri hospitals that have closed in recent years.
“I don’t think that people that manage a rural hospital from an urban area can do a good job. They have to own it, they have to be investors in it. So I think that partnership with the community works pretty well,” Haahr says.
During a recent interview with Missourinet, Haahr emphasized that it’s important to relocalize health care.
He says telecounseling is a major need across rural Missouri, including in the counties served by the Mexico and Fulton hospitals. Haahr has been visiting schools in Callaway, Audrain and Montgomery counties, and says many of the schools in those counties don’t have counseling.
“Essentially what will happen is in the fall, those students will take home a form, if their parents sign off on it, then they can download an app to a school I-pad. You can go on there, you can look at the counselors and pick one out and schedule an appointment. We (Noble) will cover the cost of the counseling session,” says Haahr.
He says Noble Health is trying to ensure that rural children are not struggling with mental health issues, for lack of counseling.
Haahr also says the foundation will be launching a Center for Rural Health Innovation soon. He also predicts that the hospitals in Mexico and Fulton will continue to flourish, and that the Noble brand will continue to grow in the future.
Click here to listen to the full interview with Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and former Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr, who runs the new Noble Health Foundation. It was recorded on June 3, 2021:
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