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Official: Horton hospital struggling with lack of funds

February 4, 2019

HORTON, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas hospital run by a troubled hospital management company is operating without enough supplies or the necessary funds to buy medications and food for patients, according to its chief nursing officer.

Krissy Torkelson said she has had to negotiate with city officials to keep the lights on at Horton Community Hospital and trash piled up because the bill wasn’t paid, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported . Torkelson said employees weren’t paid on Friday but were assured they would be paid Monday.

The hospital in the town of about 1,700 people is operated by EmpowerHMS, a subsidiary of The Empower Group. That Florida-based corporation has struggled to pay its bills across the country and was recently removed as operator of the hospital in Hillsboro, Kansas, because of funding problems.

Hospital CEO Ty Compton attributed the lack of paychecks on Friday to a problem transferring money between bank accounts, according to an email obtained by the Capital-Journal.

Messages left Monday for Empower officials, Compton and Torkelson were not immediately returned.

Torkelson said the hospital has been cleaning out freezers to provide food for patients, the business office’s utilities were cut off and the accounts payable list is close to $1 million for vendors who are owed money.

Torkelson said she spent four hours on New Year’s Eve negotiating with Police Chief John Calhoon, who is acting city administrator, to keep electricity on at the hospital. The business office was shut off but Calhoon won’t shut off the hospital because of employees and patients, she said.

She said employees also have encountered problems with promised benefits and questions about their insurance coverage.

In an email from Compton to the staff last week, he said EmpowerHMS has agreed to pay back insurance premiums that were withheld. He said he is negotiating over problems with 2018 insurance claims not being paid and insurance for 2019 has been prepaid after the hospital switched to another insurer.

The hospital’s 40 to 50 full-time employees have become increasingly frustrated, Torkelson said, and she’s not sure how long employees will stay.

“I have nothing to offer you guys to stay here,” she said. “They haven’t gotten raises for years.”

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com