‘No Mercy’ Chapter 7: After a Rural Town Loses Hospital, Is a Health Clinic Enough?

‘No Mercy’ is Season One of ‘Where It Hurts,’ a podcast about overlooked parts of the country where cracks in the health system leave people without the care they need. Our first destination is Fort Scott, Kansas.


Family physician Maxwell Self is doing his same old job for a new employer. For two decades he was a doctor with Mercy Hospital. But when Mercy packed up and left, a federally qualified health center moved to town — into the hospital building itself — and hired Dr. Self.

The Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas does things differently.

“What CHC says really has teeth and they’re solid,” Self said. “There’s real follow-through. And I have a lot more, I feel like, freedom to take care of people the way I want to and to get them what they need.”

With nutrition counseling and mental health and addiction services, and even things like arranging rides for patients, the center offers people what they need to be healthy, clinic executives said — not only health care for when they’re sick.

In the final chapter of the podcast, we also meet Sherise Beckham, 31, who lost work as a dietitian at Mercy when the hospital closed — just as she was expecting her second child.

“Initially, I cried a lot because I would be losing my job as well as losing a place to have my baby,” Beckham said.

Beckham helps explain how much more difficult it can be to have a baby when a town loses full-service maternity care. Then, later when she gets a job at — where else? — the new CHC clinic, Beckham gives us a front-row seat to the new vision for health care in Fort Scott.

Read more and access the podcast.