Tax provides lifeline for southwest Missouri hospital

OSCEOLA, Mo. | Voters have approved a property tax to keep the emergency room open and ambulances running at a southwestern Missouri hospital that had warned of possible deaths if the measure failed.

But Sac-Osage Hospital in Osceola already has laid off staff and is operating on a $370,000 deficit. And the hospital's CEO says the tax will only sustain the hospital until 2011.

So Sac-Osage is borrowing nearly $1 million to convert paper medical records to an electronic system and hinging survival on what it hopes will be a windfall of federal incentives for hospitals that go digital. The stimulus act signed by President Barack Obama directs $17 billion to doctors and hospitals that make “meaningful use” of electronic medical records.

The property tax passed 691-566 Tuesday.