April 22, 2021

Communities ask GRMC to reconsider clinics

Greater Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees heard opposition to its plans to add clinics in Mount Ayr, Corning and Greenfield during a public hearing held during its regular meeting Monday.

“Clearly, we are not in support of any kind for Union County developing primary care clinics in Mount Ayr, Corning and Greenfield,” said Gordon Winkler, CEO of Ringgold County Hospital (RCH) in Mount Ayr. “The fact that you’re building a new clinic in our community almost defeats the cost effectiveness of health care by replicating and duplicating its costs. My first question is, what analysis has been completed and reported to the board that demonstrates the need for additional primary care? Clearly, we don’t believe that there is. We certainly have enough providers to cover any need for care in our community.”

Mount Ayr has a population of approximately 1,650 people. RCH already has two full-time family practice physicians, with a third primary care physician coming on board in July, two nurse practitioners and a physician’s assistant. Also, Dr. Dwain Crain has hired a new nurse practitioner for his clinic.

Marcia Hendricks, CEO of Adair County Health System, also voiced her opposition to the plan for a clinic in Greenfield, a community of 1,800 people that she says is statisically already supporting two more primary care physicians than it needs.

Rather than building a new Greater Regional branded clinic in Greenfield, Hendricks called for more collaboration between the two entities.

“My vote is that we can collaborate more, and Monte and I have had a few conversations to kind of head that direction because Adair County does support Greater Regional quite a bit and I think that’s important that we have that collaborative effort,” Hendricks said. “It’s beyond me why you would want to [build a clinic] when we really are willing to collaborate and refer specialty patients here.”

The other clinic being planned for Corning also faces opposition from the medical community already established there. Corning also has a population of just over 1,600 people and is the home of CHI Mercy Health.

CHI President Lisa Wolfe spoke on behalf of the Corning community and was also in opposition of a clinic in that community.

“There is not a money making venture with clinics and setting clinics up,” Wolfe said. “This is more about the downstream effect for all of our communities. Why would we not collaborate together in southwest Iowa to keep all of our communities viable? I would ask that you reconsider as well. I know it’s kind of a moot point, but really give it some consideration.”

Hendricks described the public hearing as a regulatory issue and said the decision to build the clinics has already been made, but she, Wolfe and Winkler hoped the board would reconsider its desire to expand and build rural clinics in their communities.

Winkler said he believes the reason for the clinics is to create some sort of referral service in those communities.

“We’re in support of that strategy and we’re certainly willing to participate in a collaborative effort to see that that happens,” said Winkler. “We do work with your community and services here. We support the radiation and oncology department, the dialysis program, your obstetrical program. We also support services associated with SWCC with their nurse training program. We would like to hope that those things can continue and that, working collaboratively, we could generally create a scenario in which all our local communities in southwest Iowa benefit as well as the residents that are located there. I think there’s opportunity and method for us to be able to do this without having such an aggressive stance by Union County hospital.”

Hendricks said that diluting services available to the smaller communities, like Greenfield, Corning and Mount Ayr, will only increase the costs of services and will threaten the hospitals and the communities that rely on them.

However, plans for the clinics will go forward with construction of a new building for the clinic in Mount Ayr set to begin May 15 with substantial completion by Dec. 20. Bids for general construction ($852,000,) mechanical ($227,500) and electrical ($79,400) were presented to the board and approved unanimously.

Monte Neitzel, CEO of Greater Regional Medical Center, said, “Early in the process we did reach out and ask to have collaborative efforts with all three of the entities, and that probably did not materialize the way I would like to see it materialize. We will continue to see if that’s a possibility or not. Greater Regional continues to look at being the provider and employer of choice, so we want to make sure that we’re there for the long term and acting on the best interests of Iowa and the people of southwest Iowa.”

In other hospital news:

• Members of the SEIU Local 199 union presented a request for more open collective bargaining negotiations with the leaders of GRMC. Be watching future issues for followup to this story.

• The board approved the purchase of a new cryostat machine to be shared between departments.

• The board also approved the purchase of new patient monitoring equipment.