Blessing Health Keokuk to close
KEOKUK (WGEM) - Blessing Health Keokuk announced Thursday it would be closing on Oct. 1 at 12:01 a.m. due to low demand for inpatient and emergency room care.
In March of 2021, Blessing bought the hospital to improve its performance. The hospital has been in a financial crisis for 10 years.
According to Blessing officials, a recent architectural survey by a private company revealed the hospital building required renovation and replacement of decayed vital infrastructure that could reach into the millions of dollars to complete.
Based on current and expected patient use of hospital-based services in Keokuk, Blessing leaders said an investment that could total millions of dollars cannot be made responsibly.
Blessing Health Keokuk leaders said the level of inpatient and emergency care demand does not support the investment required to operate a hospital of 49-beds and an emergency room around the clock, seven days a week.
“The average daily census for inpatient is about two patients a day and the average ER visit volume is about one per hour, about 24 per day,” said the Chief of Small Rural Hospitals for Blessing Health, Kathy Hull.
“We did not want this to happen,” Hull said. “This was not our plan.”
She attributed financial concerns in the rural medical field as a factor.
“You know it’s a financial reason, it’s just a sign of healthcare times unfortunately that small rural facilities are going to find it much, much harder to continue to be profitable and even be able to be inexistence,” said Hull.
According to Keokuk City Administrator, Cole S. O’Donnell Blessing employed 147 people in Keokuk and would be transferring as many as possible to other Blessing facilities.
“This decision is not only a blow to Keokuk, but to rural communities everywhere. Residents will either have to travel for care or wait for local urgent care facilities to open. Even then, quality in patient care will only come from facilities 20-60 minutes away,” said Keokuk Mayor Kathie Mahoney. “This also a loss of quality jobs that will significantly impact families and the community.”
This is the second large employer in Keokuk to announce its closure in the last two weeks. On Aug. 26, ADM Milling announced the company would close its Keokuk plant permanently.
“The mayor told me that seven of the employees over there had spouses that worked at ADM so there are seven families in this community right now that have both of the breadwinners out of jobs,” O’Donnell said.
Concerning Blessing, O’Donnell stated city officials have reached out to other medical providers to begin discussions on ways to provide 24-hour care in Keokuk.
O’Donnell added officials will also be reaching out to state and federal officials to determine what assistance is available or what legislation is necessary to assist rural communities in maintaining quality health care for their citizens.
Blessing officials stated all its Keokuk employees will be retained until Nov. 4 in either on-site work or administrative leave.
Officials said the hospital property will be put up for sale.
According to Blessing, area residents requiring emergency care after the hospital closes should call 911 so Lee County EMS can transport them to the nearest emergency department equipped to meet their medical needs. Emergency care is available in Fort Madison and Burlington, Iowa, and Carthage and Quincy, Illinois.
“We are disappointed but undaunted,” Hull said. “When we re-established our presence in Keokuk last year, we said Blessing was committed to investing in Keokuk’s health care infrastructure to revitalize the community and the region to benefit everyone. Blessing has made an investment in the community and will continue to do so through outpatient care.”
Patients of Blessing Health Keokuk who need their medical records transferred can go to blessinghealth.org/medicalrecords or call 217-223-8400, ext. 6600.
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