PITTSBURG — Jim Barnett, a candidate for the republican nomination for governor, spoke with Pittsburg’s health care leaders on Friday at Via Christi Hospital.

Barnett’s visit was part of his statewide health tour to listen to medical professionals concerns with Medicaid.

“We are here today to make it clear to support keeping our hospitals open and to promote healthcare access to all Kansans that specifically include my support for medicaid expansion,” Barnett said.

Barnett is a Kansas native who grew up on a farm. He has been practicing internal medicine for 35 years and currently practices at Stormont Vail Health in Topeka.

He said he listened to his patients issues over the years and this listening helped him find the cure for  their ailment — he plans to do the same with his campaign, listening to the professionals who deal with healthcare in Kansas, he said.

“Whoever is governor needs to have a passion and deep understanding of health care,” Barnett said.

Barnett said Pittsburg’s health care leaders were concerned with access to medical care coverage because some of their patients would have been less advanced in their illness if they could have gone to the doctor earlier.
“Access — access is huge, if people don’t have coverage, they don’t have access until very late in a stage of the illness and it’s either too late or very costly,” Barnett said.

“That’s their main concern — whether that be medical care mental health care and dental care, that’s part of that too.”

Other concerns were with workforce and residency issues, adequate doctors and nurses are needed in the area to give patients the best care, Barnett said.

“Other’s [concerns] are workforce issues in healthcare — and every industry as far as that goes,” he said. “Looking down the line so we can have adequate doctors and nurses and all of the other support people needed in health care.”

The legislature passed the expansion of Medicaid, but it was vetoed by Governor Sam Brownback, and the legislature's attempt to override the veto failed.

“Our hospitals and communities have lost over two billion dollars in money that could have been used in health care for Kansans,” Barnett said.

Barnett said congress has talked about giving block grants to the state for medicaid funding, if that happens, Kansas may lose out on funding compared to other states that did fund medicaid.

Barnett said he believes the block grants could work, and is open to working with the idea.

“If we do receive block grants it is going to be an opportunity for Kansas to innovate with the medicaid system if the next governor understands health care,” Barnett said.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.