Preserving Rural Health Care

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“ When you lose your hospital, you lose your community.                                                                  The community now knows they have stability."

-State Rep. Cindy Ziemke (R-Batesville)  

On July 16, 2019, at midnight, an exciting chapter began in providing health care in Connersville, Indiana. At 12:01 A.M., Fayette Regional Health System, which had declared bankruptcy in October of 2018, officially ceased to exist. Minutes later, the old signs came down, replaced by new ones reading: Reid Health - Connersville.

The community turned out in force to see the new face of health care. Dennis Perkins, manager of security at Reid Health in Connersville, laughs as he remembers the scene.    So many people were driving by taking a picture of the new signs, he literally had to direct traffic. 

Recalling the evening, Vienna Smith, who had worked at Fayette since 2008 and now serves as the House Supervisor at Reid Health - Connersville, said, “I just want to cry when I think about it. When they came in and hung up banners, it was just so emotional. It’s so amazing to see the transition and to be a part of it.”  

It wasn’t easy getting there. Founded in 1913, the hospital had served the Whitewater Valley for more than a century. Connersville, once known as “Little Detroit” because of its connection to the auto industry, saw its fortunes begin to decline in the 1960s, with the loss of unionized manufacturing jobs. In 2007, the city lost Visteon, a global automotive electronics supplier, and with it, 900 jobs. The hospital struggled and Vienna Smith recalls layoffs in 2015. Services closed and the hospital filed for bankruptcy protection in 2018.

State Rep. Cindy Ziemke (R-Batesville) says, “During talks of bankruptcy, I got a lot of calls where people were desperate and concerned. I received calls saying, ‘oh my gosh, what are we going to do?’”

She adds, “It’s tough enough to generate jobs in that community, but without health care, you’re never going to have people who want to move there. They need to know that their hospital is going to remain.”

Craig Kinyon, President and CEO of Reid Health, had first-hand knowledge of the hospital and of the need for services, having served as Fayette’s chief financial officer for five years, prior to joining Reid in 1995. For him, the decision to acquire most of Fayette’s assets was the right thing to do. Reid had been providing services to the community, which is located in Indiana’s poorest county and ranks last in the state when it comes to health status. “Serving this community is our mission,” he explains.

"Reid Health has proudly served Connersville and the surrounding 
communities for decades, and we're looking forward to continuing to provide our friends and neighbors with the exceptional care they deserve,” Kinyon says.  

Everyone in the Reid organization, from Kinyon on down, has embraced its newest member. Explains Dennis Perkins, “I’ve had to change my language and others have, too. I used to say, ‘Reid is here, and they are going to do this.’  
I now say, “We are here and we’re here to stay.”

Reid wasted no time in becoming more involved in the Connersville community. Within three days of acquiring the hospital, the Reid Foundation became aware that the children in the behavioral health program for kids and youth needed new shoes. The Foundation was able to meet that need by donating shoes as part of its “Shoes for Kids” program funded by Reid Ride, an annual family bike ride since 2009.

The week following the opening, a parade took place to launch 4H week. Along with seven Reid-branded vehicles, about 40-50 employees walked the parade route, including Dennis Perkins and Vienna Smith. “Being able to take part in the parade and hearing people say, ‘Thank you, Reid Health’, ‘Welcome!’, and, ‘Thank you for saving our community.’  It was just so cool,” Smith says. 

Reid got involved in other ways, too, sponsoring Reid Healthier Community Wellness Day in August. Activities included a family-friendly color run and free admission to the Connersville public swimming pool. Reid is also active with the Connersville schools, providing athletic training at no cost.

Reid’s focus is to ensure the community has access to the services it needs. Says Kinyon, "Making sure the services we offer in Connersville are sustainable and available for years to come is a top priority. Our team identified the services to initially provide and we are committed to building on our decades-long history of providing high-quality care to the people of Connersville, Fayette County, and the surrounding area."  

Those services include maintaining a 24/7 emergency department supported by lab and radiology services; extending Epic, Reid's electronic medical record, to Reid Health - Connersville, expanding radiology, and maintaining inpatient and residential adolescent behavioral health services. Reid also has added two ambulances dedicated to the Connersville campus. The ambulances can initiate stroke treatment before the patient arrives at the Richmond campus. 

State Senator Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) had been actively monitoring Fayette's declining financial health with alarm and was relieved to see Reid Health come forward. “There was a period where I didn't think anyone would even come in to take over the hospital and provide services. That could have happened. You could have had a community in a tough county without any emergency services."  She continues, “People in the community have got to be happy that they'll still have an emergency room, that there will be prenatal services, and  that there is going to be an opportunity for rehabilitation  and therapy."website crop Reid sign.jpg

In addition to providing access to much-needed health care services, Reid has provided economic stability to the community. The hospital maintained 330 jobs at the facility, and they are recruiting for additional positions. Says Representative Ziemke, “When you lose your hospital, you lose your community. The community now knows they have stability."  

That stability extends to Reid Connersville's employees. Says Dennis Perkins, a 20-year veteran of Connersville's police department, “In my own words, I would give my thanks and appreciation for people that are true to their word and don't just pay lip service. I've seen that it's real and I really believe it will continue. I commend Reid for not only coming in and bettering our community but bettering me as a person." 

“ Stepping in and maintaining services in Connersville was the right thing to do. It's our mission." 

- Craig Kinyon, President, and CEO, Reid Health