Atchison Hospital is standing strong in a time where rural medical facilities with uncertain futures are not uncommon.
Atchison Hospital’s eighty five thousand square-foot complex, built in 2010, is a symbol of the community and a center of top-tier medical services. But it wasn’t always that way. When John Jacobson took office in 2004, coming from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, he inherited an institution with an uncertain future.
Jacobson is preparing to leave office ahead of his last day on Friday, June 28. He is to be replaced by Jeff Perry, who has to date served as a hospital administrator in Texas, next Monday, July 1.
At the time Jacobson assumed office, his predecessor had left him with an aging facility and publicly acknowledged financial instability.
“Without a critical-access hospital status and without a new facility, I’m not sure where we would be right now,” said Chairwoman Susan Myers of the Atchison Hospital board of directors. “Lots of critical access hospitals are closing in our state and as well as in the nation, but because of John’s vision and his foresight, we are thriving.”
Area residents need not go far to picture a different situation. In neighboring Brown County, the Horton Community Hospital closed its doors indefinitely in March, and Hiawatha Community Hospital is facing its own challenges.
Yet Rick Berger, who fell down a cliff while mowing his lawn this spring, says the care he’s received in Atchison shows the strength of the institution.
“It’s vintage John Jacobson to have the vision to look out and say ‘This is what we need to do if we’re going to be around,” said Berger, president of the Atchison Hospital Foundation board. “There’s a lot of us that thought he was crazy at the time, but this building was a huge accomplishment for the, for the community.”
Jacobson, who said he initially didn’t intend to finish his career in Atchison but quickly fell in love with the community, said he only came to the decision to retire over several years of careful thought.
“It’s sort of an evolutionary process that you go through,” he said. “I still have my health, I have my passion, I have my energy. I love life. I love this organization. I think I’m leaving it in pretty good shape. The next person coming on board is going to have a great opportunity.”