OSWEGO — Representatives of the city of Oswego, Labette Health, Oswego Clinic, Oswego Chamber of Commerce, the state of Kansas and Crossland Construction broke ground Friday on the new Oswego Clinic & Express Care building to be constructed at 515 Commercial, Oswego.
Dee Bohnenblust, vice chair for the Labette Health board of trustees, said it was an exciting day for Oswego and all of Labette County.
“We know this is going to be an outstanding facility that will provide health care to this community for years to come,” she said.
Labette Health CEO Brian Williams said it was around two years ago when he and he Oswego Mayor Dan Chapman were talking about how Oswego Community Hospital had closed rather abruptly.
“There was sort of a pattern of that in Independence, Fort Scott and then Oswego. The first call I got was from two gentlemen, Steve Lewis and Stephen Charles, and they are your friends and neighbors and they encouraged us to try to do what was right for the entire county and Southeast Kansas and Oswego. So I want to thank both of them for giving me a little nudge,” Williams said.
Carl Hoskins, who was born and raised in Oswego, also called to ask what could be done to support the hospital and Oswego.
“I didn’t know, but I guess Commissioner (Lonie) Addis said this was a dream 30 years coming to have EMS and a clinic, and continuity of health care here for the entire county from the north to the south part of the county, so I want to thank Commissioner Addis, Commissioner (Brian) Kinzie and Commissioner (Cole) Proehl because without the vision of the commissioners, we wouldn’t have the quarter-cent sales tax that we have that is going to pay for a large portion of this building,” Williams said. “And they’ve been gracious. We’re held accountable for those funds. We talk every year, ask if we can keep excess funds for a project like this. So it’s been a lot of years coming.”
Williams said it is a testimony to all those at the hospital who help manage the precious financial resources.
Then Secretary of Commerce David Toland showed up a couple of days after the closure of the hospital in Oswego, asking what the state could do to help.
“That’s a wonderful thing. They helped us immensely,” Williams said of the various grants awarded that carry tax credits with them.
Matt Vail donated a portion of the sale of the property to the hospital. Commercial Bank donated a building beside the property and bought some of the tax credits to make the building a reality.
The Labette Health Foundation and the Beachner family purchased tax credits. Cory and Lisa Hugo made a contribution, and Dr. Stephen Miller and others made donations.
“If you make a donation, you get 70% tax credit,” Williams said. “That’s a wonderful program.”
He thanked the entire city of Oswego and all of its staff.
“The people of Labette Health have been gracious to facilitate this,” Chapman said of the hospital spreading out to fill the void left by other hospitals closing. “Kudos to them for doing that. … Speaking from the heart, I really do want to thank everybody who is responsible for making this happen. The biggest boost a city can get is investment in the Main Street downtown area, and this is pretty prime property, high visibility right here, and it really will be a tremendous addition to our town. I know a lot of small cities are drying up and blowing away, and we’ve lost a lot, but with what’s going on now, and the lieutenant governor here, I do believe people really do still see there is a value in small-town rural America. Thank you for being here for that.”
Construction is set to begin May 10 by Crossland Construction. It is estimated it will be completed by September.
Rudy Taylor, representing the Chamber of Commerce, said Oswego and Labette Health have enjoyed a wonderful neighborly relationship for a long time, and the Oswego Clinic & Express Care will only enhance that.
“Can you imagine the economic impact that this is going to have to put all these doctors and nurses and technicians and EMTs and everyone else that is affiliated with it, plus all the support they get from the main campus in Parsons and all the professionals that come in for their specialty clinics. It’s going to be wonderful. I can’t think of anything in Oswego that probably has added to our economic status more than this announcement that this is going to be located here,” Tylor said. “We appreciate.”
Toland said he was thinking back on the way down to when he was in Oswego in February 2019, two or three days after the announcement of the hospital closure. He said the weather fit the mood — dark and gray. He said there were a lot of worried faces packed into a meeting room and around a table to discuss the closure.
“But there was also a lot of determination around that table to do something and to figure this out,” Toland said, recalling Williams saying there was a path forward, that they could all work together and figure it out.
Williams was determined, as was Gov. Laura Kelly, who sent Toland down, and collectively he said, they have all turned words into action.
“Now there’s going to be over $1 million that’s going to be spent on this very site to build a new building in downtown Oswego. We’re going to have health care professionals that are a part of this and local people who aren’t going to have to do a long round trip for basic procedures,” Toland said. “We’re going to have a new ambulance barn as part of this. It is a remarkable vote of confidence in the future of Oswego, of Labette County, of Southeast Kansas and of rural Kansas as a whole. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of work, but I think you see when you’ve got determined folks and you’ve got a vision and the kind of cooperation that we see here … working together, big things can happen. So I want to congratulate the partners involved in getting us to this day. I’m looking forward to coming back in September to cut a ribbon.”