PITTSBURG — Via Christi Hospital may be a not-for-profit entity but the medical center is at the forefront of providing millions of dollars in free and uncompensated services to Southeast Kansas.

According to Internal Revenue Service records, in 2015 Via Christi provided residents of Pittsburg and the surrounding area with more than $5 million in community benefit for which it was not paid. Randy Cason, senior administrator, said Via Christi has a long tradition of giving back to the community.

"As a Catholic not-for-profit health care ministry, contributing to the overall health of our community fulfills the mission our founding Sisters established in 1903," Cason said. "We are proud to provide this level of community benefit and look forward to continually enhancing the services we provide in the future."

Kayla Joy, physician recruiter and interim community relations manager, said Via Christi provided $5.3 million in community benefit in 2015, including $4 million in charity care.

She said Via Christi Health, a member of Ascension — the nation's largest Catholic and not-for-profit health care system — provided $82.5 million in community benefits across Kansas at locations in Pittsburg, Wichita, Manhattan and Wamego.

Jeff Korsmo, chief executive officer for Via Christi Health, said the medical center's focus on helping those who often can not help themselves through outreach benefit programs.

“Consistent with our mission, we’re helping ensure that everyone, particularly our community’s most vulnerable, have access to quality healthcare through our charity care, community outreach, education and services,” Korsmo said. “Our clinics, hospitals and senior villages work actively within our communities to create and support programs that focus on expanding access to care for people who are poor or otherwise underserved.”

Via Christi Pittsburg's Peter Mayo, director of chaplain services and senior leader of integration, said the community benefit comes in a variety of forms. Much of the benefit is focused on health education and preventive measures to keep residents healthier longer.

"A big part of our mission is, and always has been, to keep people from coming here," Mayo said. "Helping keep people healthy is one of the most important things we do."

Examples of Via Christi’s community benefit in the Pittsburg area include:

• Providing free and reduced cost transportation services to area residents needing transportation for medical related visits.

• Health fair participation at a variety of locations and events.

• Cancer screenings to help provide early detection of a variety of types of cancer.

• Post-concussion screening assessment and cognitive testing at no cost to Crawford County high school students with more than 950 tests conducted over the past three years.

• Diabetes self-management through the only program in Southeast Kansas certified by the American Diabetes Association.

• Hot meals through the Meals on Wheels program with more than 18,500 meals prepared in Pittsburg going to area elderly and homebound residents older than 60.

• Health care training for students in a variety of health care fields from nursing to physical therapy who are attending one of several institutions of higher learning, including Pittsburg State University, Fort Scott Community College and Labette Community College.

• Providing the services of two cardiologists who provide free cardiology services at the Community Health Clinic monthly.

• Assist patients needing assistance with paying for prescriptions, and:

• Provide free meeting space for civic organizations like Kiwanis, Rotary Clubs and other groups at the hospital.

— Mike Elswick is a staff writer for The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at melswick@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ mike_elswick.