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Lee County Approves Hospital Payment

Jason Parrott
Tri States Public Radio

Lee County has changed its mind about giving money to Keokuk Area Hospital.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1, Tuesday morning, in support of a more than $103,000 contribution to the hospital.

This is a contrast from last month's 3-2 vote against a similar contribution.

Supervisor Rick Larkin (D-Fort Madison) changed his vote to yes.

He says he wants the hospital to remain open, but he says this is the last contribution he can support, especially after the county already gave the hospital $100,000 in 2013.

“This (latest contribution) is a one-time deal," says Larkin.  "We are going to give Keokuk (Area) Hospital an opportunity to get their finances in good shape.”

The county’s contribution will be used as a local match for more federal money.

Duane Fitch heads the firm that is managing Keokuk Area Hospital.  He says while he appreciates Larkin’s warning, the hospital will act in its own best interests.

“If we are eligible for this program in the future," says Fitch, "we are duty-bound to at least ask the board to consider it.”

Chairman Ernie Schiller (D-Donnellson) also changed his no vote in March to yes in April.  He says he decided it was best to help the hospital, even though a majority of the residents he heard from opposed it.

The vote on the contribution was a last-minute addition to the agenda for the Board's April 8 meeting.  It followed more than 90-minutes of debate and public comment.

Most of the comments favored the contribution to the hospital as the meeting was being held in Keokuk's Heritage Center.

Meanwhile, the Keokuk City Council could be forced to take another vote on its contribution to Keokuk Area Hospital.

The hospital needed more than $103,000 from the city to match federal money, but the city council approved a $100,000 donation last week.

Duane Fitch says he is working with the city to see how to proceed.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.