Tuesday, we reported that Sanford Health is apparently closing its clinic in Kennebec, reportedly because the clinic is losing money and seeing too few patients to justify its existence.
I say “apparently” and “reportedly” because nobody from Sanford wanted to touch the story with a 10-foot pole. Everybody we called either declined to comment, passed us off to others who weren’t available or failed to call us back.
Of course, our story could have been wrong, judging by this message on Sanford’s Kennebec Clinic webpage:
At Sanford Health in Kennebec, SD, we combine a tradition of transforming health care with ensuring that every community member has access to the highest quality care and services close to home. Since 1981, we’ve been proud to be part of the Kennebec community. We celebrate life and join together to tackle the toughest of challenges.
Surely a nonprofit organization dedicated to “ensuring that every community member has access to the highest quality care and services close to home” would do everything possible to keep a rural clinic open. Surely, as Sanford Health says on that webpage, the venerable nonprofit will “join together” with the people of Kennebec and “tackle the toughest of challenges.”
After all, providing health care where it’s needed is the mission of a nonprofit health-care provider, right?
Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but when you contrast Sanford’s decision to close its Kennebec clinic against the following news, you get the sense that maybe Sanford has lost sight of its roots and traditional purpose.
VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) — Sanford Health is giving $20 million to the University of South Dakota for a new arena. It is the third significant financial move for the Dakotas-based health network in less than a week.
I don’t know what it costs to keep a rural health-care clinic open, but I’m guessing $20 million would just about cover it. That’s probably oversimplifying the issue, but the issue doesn’t look very complex to people in Kennebec. In their eyes, a giant health-care provider with hundreds of millions of dollars is closing a rural clinic to save a few bucks, even as that same giant health-care provider throws money around like it’s growing on trees.