By Sarah Jane Tribble | May 14, 2019

A slight drizzle had begun in the gray December sky outside Community Christian Church as Reta Baker, president of the local hospital, stepped through the doors to join a weekly morning coffee organized by the Fort Scott, Kan., chamber of commerce.

The town manager was there, along with the franchisee of the local McDonald’s, an insurance agency owner and the receptionist from the big auto sales lot. Baker, who grew up on a farm south of town, knew them all.

Still, she paused in the doorway with her chin up to take in the scene.

Just a few months before, Baker and the hospital’s owner, St. Louis-based Mercy health system, publicly announced that the 132-year-old hospital would close.

“Nobody talked to me after the announcement,” she said.

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