As federal and state policymakers weigh restrictions on physician-owned specialty hospitals, at least one municipality already has taken action.
Newton, Kan., with a population of just over 17,000, passed an ordinance to block the entry of ambulatory surgery centers and specialty hospitals. Passed last July at the request of the town's only hospital, Newton Medical Center, the measure requires licensing ambulatory surgery centers and specialty hospitals, imposes a one-year moratorium on such licenses, and directs the creation of a task force to conduct a yearlong study on niche facilities.
Some are questioning the practical impact of the ordinance. In fact, no specialty facilities have been proposed in Newton.
"I would be surprised if there was any great effort to put a specialty hospital there in the first place," said Jerry Slaughter, executive director of the Kansas Medical Society. He added, "Really, this is an issue that's probably going to be solved at the national level."
But Newton Medical Center President and Chief Executive Officer Steven Kelly said he's proud of the city commission for stepping in. Newton Medical Center is a 66-bed standalone not-for-profit hospital.
Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, five towns-Chickasha, Duncan, McAlester, Norman and Stillwater-have passed ordinances that restrict new health services development.
"Each ordinance is different from the other, but the intent of each is to try to ensure that the long-term viability of the local community hospital is not put in jeopardy," said Sheryl McClain, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Hospital Association.