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New Podcast 'Where It Hurts' Explores Problems In The U.S. Health Care System That Leave Millions Without Access To Care

Season 1, available Sept. 29, looks at rural hospital closures through the experience of Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott, Kansas

David Kovaluk
Where It Hurts podcast

KFF's Kaiser Health News (KHN) and St. Louis Public Radio are launching a new podcast, “Where It Hurts,” which explores painful cracks in America’s health system that leave millions without the health care they need. Each season, the podcast will take listeners somewhere new to illustrate some entrenched problems — and a few solutions — for our health care system.

Season One, called “No Mercy,” is the first offering in the partnership and tells the story of what happened to the residents of Fort Scott, Kansas, when the rural town’s 132-year-old Mercy Hospital closed due to financial difficulties. KHN senior correspondent Sarah Jane Tribble, who grew up on 10 acres about an hour from Fort Scott, spent more than a year reporting from the town, where locals lost vital health care, workers lost well-paying jobs, and the community’s sense of identity wavered. Among the topics Tribble explores is the question of whether every community needs a hospital.

The troubles Fort Scott has faced are happening all over America. More than 130 rural hospitals have closed over the past decade. The pressures of dealing with COVID-19 have forced even more rural hospitals to close their doors — 15 in the first eight months of 2020 alone. In 2019, 18 rural hospitals closed for good.

No Mercy Trailer

"When Sarah Jane shared her reporting on the fallout from a rural hospital closing in her home state of Kansas, I said, 'Wow, this has to be a podcast,'” said KHN Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal. “I'm so thrilled that St. Louis Public Radio has jumped in wholeheartedly with us to make it happen!”

“We’re proud to partner with KHN to share Sarah Jane Tribble’s investigative storytelling with podcast listeners,” said St. Louis Public Radio Interim General Manager Tom Livingston. “By providing a window into the lives of people struggling to access care, these powerful stories bring context and humanity to the health care challenges facing our nation.”

“Where It Hurts” debuts Sept. 29, with episodes to be released weekly through Nov. 10, and available on major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and NPR One. Listen to chapter one and find more information at whereithurts.show. In future seasons, other storytellers will lead the reporting to highlight overlooked parts of America and show how health system failures can ripple through the social fabric of a community.

About KFF and KHN:
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) and, along with Policy Analysis and Polling, is one of the three major operating programs of KFF. KFF is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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