While continuing to negotiate for a USDA-backed loan to purchase the Fulton's hospital, CEO Mike Reece is already talking to employees and community members about his plans.
Fulton Medical Center is still owned by Leawood, Kansas-based company NueHealth (Neuterra Capital), but Reece said he's negotiating a sales contract with several lenders.
His ownership plans won't end when that mission is accomplished, he said.
"We'll put the real estate into a Real Estate Investment Trust," Reece added. "That will allow everyone in town to buy a share. Employees can own a piece. Doctors can own it."
No one will be permitted to own more than 25 percent of the shares. Reece said each share will cost about $70, with about 100,000 shares to be offered. Those five people holding the top number of shares will sit on the hospital board and will each have a vote.
"The hospital will pay rent every month to the REIT," he added, thus shareholders can earn a little of their investment back.
Making the hospital into a nonprofit also will allow for cheaper pharmaceuticals to be available for patients and REIT holders, who will be able to redeem those scripts at local pharmacies including chains.
Also setting up a governance system to oversee the hospital is a prime resolve, Reece said.
"We're trying to set up a structure that will last 100 years," he added. "We have to do the right thing to win back patients and doctors."
One way to get to know the Fulton Medical Center staff is by attending their free public barbecues from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. every Wednesday.
Hospital officials are planning a Spring Community Health Fair and Vendor Expo from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. May 23 at the hospital. Register for booth space by Friday by calling Andrea Bedrosian at 573-528-4073.
Reece said many community residents don't realize the former management company, EmpowerHMS, recently got the boot. EmpowerHMS, operated by Florida resident Jorge Perez, was dismissed several months ago; payroll withholding taxes were left unpaid, Reece added.
Other nearby hospitals Perez managed, including I-70 Community Hospital in Sweet Springs, have suspended operations, and others also were affected. Washington County Hospital in Plymouth, North Carolina, formerly managed by EmpowerHMS, declared bankruptcy and closed in February, but doors reopened May 2 under new management.
Empower hospitals Hillsboro Community Hospital, Horton Community Hospital and Oswego Community Hospital also were Perez operations in Kansas. Hillsboro declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March. Horton and Oswego are closed for good. Oklahoma residents lost Latimer County General Hospital, and reports of late paychecks, unpaid utility bills and other serious financial problems began emerging last winter at Empower hospitals in seven states.