PITTSBURG — Ascension Via Christi has an agreement to operate Fort Scott’s former emergency room, diagnostic imaging and laboratory services, as soon as it can get regulatory approval to do so, a release from Ascension Via Christi said.
According to a release from the City of Fort Scott, after Mercy announced the closure of the Fort Scott hospital in October, a task force was quickly pulled together in October to work on three priorities: primary care to maintain medical staff with no disruption of service;  ambulance service; and emergency room.
The city said they have been “anxiously awaiting an announcement regarding the Emergency Room.”
Under the agreement, Ascension Via Christi will lease approximately 16,000 square feet of clinical space from Mercy in Fort Scott, the release from Ascension Via Christi said.
Mercy announced the closure of its Fort Scott hospital in October, along with plans to pursue opportunities to transfer certain services to other area providers. Under the agreement,
Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg will manage emergency and outpatient services at the Fort Scott hospital location.
“We have worked diligently to retain the staff working at Mercy Fort Scott and are in the process of recruiting and onboarding the clinical and non-clinical associates we’ll need to staff services in Fort Scott,” Ascension Via Christi Hospital - Pittsburg President of Randy Cason said in the release.
He said emergency room is critical for the residents of Fort Scott and surrounding communities.
“Taking on emergency room and outpatient diagnostics responsibilities is a continuation of our mission to care for the residents of Southeast Kansas,” Cason said in the release. “Mercy has agreed to transfer its emergency, laboratory and radiology equipment on-site to allow for a smooth transition of services.”
As planned, Mercy will close the emergency room in Fort Scott at midnight on Jan. 31. Therefore, there will be a gap in service while regulatory inspections to operate under new management are obtained.
The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas will be assuming operations of Mercy Convenient Care Friday. The most noticeable change will be a new sign reading CHC/SEK Walk In Care. Hours of operation will remain the same – 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.  Telephone numbers remain the same; the majority of the original staff have been retained. Patients still should enter through the main hospital door.  The pharmacy will continue to operate as usual.
The main clinic located within the hospital building will be closed Friday, Feb. 1, to change out phone and computer systems and will reopen Monday, Feb. 4 at 8 a.m. Hours of operation are expanding with the clinic open Monday through Thursday until 6 p.m. Friday hours will remain the same which are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
CHC/SEK will also be providing Mammography Services beginning in mid-February following completion of all licensure requirements.
Specialty clinics will continue and expand to add specialists from Kansas City, Joplin, Pittsburg and Iola. Previously located in Mercy’s building on Horton Street, these are being moved into the main clinic to make it more convenient for patients. A full listing of all visiting physicians will be published next week. The VA Clinic will remain in the Horton Street Building.
CHC/SEK has also initiated discussions with potential oncology providers to reopen the Cancer Center as soon as possible, a release said.
“As with any transition, some glitches should be expected and appreciate everyone’s patience during this period,” the release from the city of Fort Scott said.
According to the release from Fort Scott, the current EMS contract with Mercy remains in place through the end of March.  The City/County EMS partnership will begin April 1st.  The current EMS staff has been preparing for this provider transition for several months.  The EMS service remains fully operational during the transition.  
City Manager, Dave Martin, has maintained a close relationship with executives from Via Christi and Mercy to ensure the future of healthcare services in our community, the release said.  
Martin heard from Randy Cason, President of Ascension Via Christi and discussed future healthcare opportunities.
“Fort Scott has a chance to be a role model for the future of rural healthcare” Martin said in the release from Fort Scott. “The task force will begin establishing a relationship with Via Christi and continue to partner with CHC/SEK to provide the best solution for future healthcare in our community.”    
“As always, the City of Fort Scott remains committed to the needs of the citizens and will continue to monitor healthcare throughout these exciting changes,” the City of Fort Scott said in the release.