Kennebec official: Health clinic closingTown board member says Sanford Health’s decision has angered residents
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
KENNEBEC — Kennebec will lose its health clinic by the end of the month, according to a town board member.
Kennebec resident and town board member Gene Mertens said Sanford Health decided earlier this month to close its Kennebec location because of financial concerns and a declining number of patients.
“My wife is on the local board at Sanford in Chamberlain, and during a meeting on Aug. 3 about the clinic in Kennebec, they were just told, no arguing, the clinic will be closing,” he said.
He said Sanford officials claimed the clinic is losing $100,000 per year and only two people are sent to Sanford’s Chamberlain hospital per year from Kennebec.
Mertens does not believe the patient numbers. Besides himself in recent months, at least four people have been sent to the Chamberlain hospital from Kennebec, he said.
Mertens said many older people and residents in rural areas of Lyman County depend on the Kennebec clinic for their health care. Patients from Vivian, Presho and Lyman visit the Kennebec clinic.
Mertens said the clinic is not staffed by a doctor or physician’s assistant every day.
“Sometimes there isn’t anyone here for two weeks,” Mertens said. “When there is a doctor here, he might have 15 patients in a day.”
He said many residents are angry about the clinic closing and will likely travel to Presho’s clinic or to Pierre for health care rather than support Sanford’s Chamberlain operations.
“When they say the clinic loses $100,000 per year, it’s not because the people don’t pay their bills. Where does that money go?” Mertens asked. “Sanford gave $2 million to a new arena in Sioux Falls and $10 million for something in Brookings.”
Mertens was referencing an aggressive expansion in recent years by Sanford Health that has seen it undertake mergers and build multiple new facilities. He said Sanford should start using some of that money to maintain clinics in rural areas, particularly in Kennebec.
A message left with a Sanford Chamberlain spokeswoman was not returned Monday.
A Sanford Health spokeswoman in Sioux Falls said she did not know any details of the Kennebec situation and was not able to make anyone immediately available to speak about it.
Sanford Health’s website continued to display the following summary of its Kennebec clinic Monday.
“At Sanford Health in Kennebec, SD, we combine a tradition of transforming health care with ensuring that every community member has access to the highest quality care and services close to home. Since 1981, we’ve been proud to be part of the Kennebec community. We celebrate life and join together to tackle the toughest of challenges.”