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Rural Kansas hospital discovers cure for physician shortage


Although 25 percent of Americans live in rural areas, only 10 percent of doctors do.  Finding physicians willing to live on the prairie is a serious problem in Kansas.  Kearny County Hospital had that problem.  The small hospital is rural, very rural with five people per square mile, but the little hospital has found a solution according to a recent article by the Kansas Health Institute.

“We have more candidates interested in coming here than we have room to hire,” said Benjamin Anderson, chief executive at Kearny County Hospital. “It’s not rocket science, but to does it requires a hospital to be mission-focused and it requires the right kind of mission-focused governance and leadership, and I think not every organization has that.”

A sixth doctor and a sixth physician assistant are scheduled to start work at the hospital next year.

Anderson previously was a physician recruiter.  He identified four types of doctors:

  • A person born and raised in the area who chose to return home.
  • Foreign doctors who gained U.S. resident status by agreeing to work (usually temporarily) in an underserved area.
  • “Challenged doctors,” those with addictions or other problems that “don’t do well with accountability issues.”
  • “And the fourth kind is the missionary,” Anderson said, “the one driven by mission or purpose” to treat those in need. “And we have intentionally chosen that fourth category.”

Those that Kearny County Hospital recruits, he said, “aren’t that interested in country clubs, not that interested in ego and money and prestige and elite social clubs. What they are there for is to serve. That doesn’t mean our community is Third World and it doesn’t mean it is inferior. There is need everywhere.”
The hospital serves patients from nine counties, and immigrants from 30-40 countries who have come to the area to work at the Tyson Foods slaughterhouse in nearby Holcomb.

The hospital also gives the doctors eight weeks off a year to accommodate those interested in overseas mission work, four-day work weeks, and limited emergency room call.

“…Any hospital has the ability to do this,” he said, "and we would hand the blueprint to anyone who wants it for free."