Community found opportunity in clinic crisis
What could have been a huge setback to the community was averted when it was announced Wednesday that De Soto Family Practice was set to open six weeks after it was closed by Hospital Corporation of America.
The delay may have seemed long for patients of the clinic forced to travel to Shawnee or other practices outside the community, but the successful reopening in such a relatively short time can be viewed as extraordinary in a town used to the endless delays associated with the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.
In large part the victory can be attributed to the community effort that started when Darrel Zimmerman visited De Soto Multi-Service Center Coordinator Jodi Hitchcock about rumors the clinic would be closing. That conversation led to the creation of a community task force.
In December, we talked to another city that had lost HCA clinics in recent months. It was clear community response made the difference in what were very different outcomes. The other city didn't provide a unified front. In particular, city government didn't get involved. By contrast, Mayor Dave Anderson, the city attorney and the city administrator were all members of the task force that explored alternatives should HCA not cooperate. Anderson personally called an HCA executive to clarify the company's position and demand cooperation.
Also, someone in the community notified the news media of the closing. Subsequent to that action, HCA was cooperative in efforts to find another provider.
Task force members Hitchcock and Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Sara Rtter also contacted potential replacements. And, in fact, Mid America Physicians Group, who now owns the De Soto practice, credits that contact as one reason it grew interested in De Soto.
Although traumatic, De Soto emerged from the ordeal a winner. Mid America clearly views the community much differently than HCA. In the Shawnee practice's eyes, De Soto is an asset that offers great growth potential. Should the potential be realized, De Soto can expect to see service upgrades unimagined by previous clinic owners.