Voters Determine Fate of Barton County Memorial Hospital - KOAM TV 7

Voters Determine Fate of Barton County Memorial Hospital

LAMAR, MISSOURI - Lamar resident, Bruce Belline, has seen his fair share of visits to Barton County Memorial Hospital.

"My personal doctors are all here. My orthopedic doctor is here," Belline said. "I recently got into a chainsaw and cut my hand right here. And as a result I used the emergency room."

But the survival of the hospital  will depend heavily on the decision of voters, April 7th.

"Worst case scenario is we close. We totally close," CEO of Barton County Memorial Hospital Wendy Duval said.

Due to an increasing amount of uninsured patients...

"Last year, we wrote off 1.6 million dollars in our cost to provide care to [uninsured]," she said.

And a decrease in medicare payouts due to sequestration..

"It cut our medicare percentage down to 99 percent. And we are 65 percent medicare patients," Duval said. "So on 65 percent of our business we are losing 1 percent."

The Barton County Memorial Hospital needs voters to increase the property tax levy the hospital receives.

"Well, we want to quadruple it," Duval said.

Meaning a homeowner in the city of Lamar with a $100,000 home, would face a tax increase of about $61.  

Money Duval says has been needed for years.

"We're gonna show probably close to a $2 million loss in 2014," Duval said. "In 2013, we cut about $1.5 million out of our operating budget. In the last three years we have cut about 25 positions."

Though declining to speak on record, most citizens -- when explained the levy increase -- generally supported the move. But when it comes to actually passing the measure.. That's a whole other story.

"I don't anticipate it will pass," Duval said. "Because it's asking for tax increase and no one like tax increases."

"Normally people, when it comes to taxes, [voters] say no," Belline said. "But I think if they will recognize the fact and are aware that the doors [to the hospital] are gonna close, I think it will pass."

If the proposal fails, officials say they will re-introduce the levy increase.  

Beside shutting down for good, the hospital's options include affiliating with a larger health care provider.

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