Horton looks at fix for healthcare as Gov. Kelly sends help for displaced workers

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HORTON, Kan. (WIBW) -- The closure of the Horton Community Hospital means a gap in medical coverage for the community of 1600.

Some business leaders in the area are more worried about the impact it will mean for their city because the loss of jobs.

The issue is there are 40 plus people without a job right now, and those people have not been paid for some time.

The community is worried, not only about health care coverage but also the possibility of losing their friends and neighbors.

“Working six, six and a half weeks without pay, that is unheard of,” said Tim Lentz, former Horton Mayor and business owner.

Lentz knows the issues surrounding Horton Community Hospital. A year ago he was the mayor, and recalls that the hospital often couldn’t pay the utility bills. The doors closed for good at 5:00p.m. Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a huge impact on our community, not only for healthcare, but for our businesses that we sustain here that they shop at every day. Buy gas, go to the grocery store,” Lentz added.

He blames hospital ownership, Jorge Perez and EmpowerHMS. Perez is named in a federal lawsuit alleging he and his company were part of an illegal billing scheme.

“This guy should never ever had the opportunity to screw 12 or 13 community’s lives up and possibly ruin these communities,” Lentz added.

Perez also owns the now closed Oswego Hospital in Southeast Kansas. He also used to be CEO of iHealthcare, which took over the Horton hospital's operations in February.

“It’s been very difficult to even keep up or get return e-mails any conversations over the phone over the last couple of months,” said John Calhoon, the City Administrator.
The city says it couldn't do much to stop the hospital from closing because it’s a private business. Now they are working to find a new provider, for a temporary fix.

“If it’s going to be a clinic for now and then maybe in hopes we can broaden it out and be more,” added Bryan Stirton, Mayor of Horton.

Governor Laura Kelly says a KansasWorks team will be in Horton on Thursday.

They will offer assistance to employees who need to file unemployment benefits and look for new jobs.