Stormont working to rebuild trust in Junction City hospital

Nearly a year after taking over the former Geary Community Hospital, Stormont Vail says it's making strides in improving care in the Junction City area.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 10:25 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - As financial struggles threatened the future of Junction City’s hospital last year, staff heard the community’s doubts.

“I think there was an underlying perception, and perception can be reality in some cases,” said Dr. Jason Butler, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at what’s now Stormont Vail Health Flint Hills Campus. “There was this underlying tone that maybe when you came here, your waits would be long, or your interactions wouldn’t be favorable.”

Topeka-based Stormont Vail Health took over management of Geary Community Hospital last July, and assumed ownership January 1. Among the first priorities was improving emergency care.

Regional director of nursing Tracy Duran said emergency services are vital for the area.

“We are really close to I70. We receive a lot of traumas that come through on the highway, unfortunately, and so we have the ability to care for those patients, stabilize them and get them to our higher level of care in Topeka,” Duran said.

One immediate change was practical. They created dedicated storage areas so supplies were no longer out in the hallways, and they renovated the space.

“What we’ve seen is consistency across each exam room, making sure we have everything in the exact same spot in every exam room. We’ve optimized workflow through here,” Butler said.

They’ve also upgraded the hospital to the EPIC electronic medical records system, which improves communication among providers. Plus, they have their own locally-hired physicians and nursing staff, rather than relying on traveling staff.

Duran says the traveling personnel were good, but there is a difference.

“It’s all about being able to build a team that’s highly qualified, competent and compassionate,” she said. “It’s really hard for people to buy into a mission if they’re only here for 13 weeks. By having that consistent staff, they know that this is the expectation of Stormont Vail. We want to be able to there for our community. We might see you at the football game or the basketball game, and we have the ability to say thanks for taking care of me.”

Butler agreed.

“It’s not the quality of care that was the problem, it’s the local buy in,” he said. “When you’re from Junction City, you’re from Topeka, you’re from Kansas, you understand the culture, the people and you want to see your community grow so I think that plays a role in the quality care you provide at any time.”

Stormont Vail and local leaders agreed having a quality hospital in Junction City is vital.

“By 2040, Geary County is predicted to have the highest population increase in Kansas, so we need to be able to build a good, firm foundation here so that we’re here for the community,” Duran said.

Duran and Butler hope the community sees their hospital is back on solid ground.

“It seems like the confidence is growing,” Butler said. “We’re seeing that not just in word of mouth but we’re seeing that in volume. Over the past six months, we’ve really seen our numbers on a daily basis increase, which I think is an actual show of confidence and trust in what kind of care we’re providing in our ER.”

Duran hopes people set aside any doubts.

“We want people to give us another chance,” she said. “If you felt like in the past you didn’t receive the care you wanted, I want to change that perception one good interaction at a time.”

Geary County invested $20 million in deferred maintenance and repairs before the takeover, with Stormont planning to invest another $20 million in the next four years.