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Hospital and County Still Feuding Over Money

Keokuk Area Hospital requested and received roughly $100,000 from Lee County in both 2013 and 2014. The third time might not be the charm, though, as the hospital's request for another $100,000 appears to be going nowhere.

That's because Chairman Ron Fedler has said he will not put the hospital on the agenda for a weekly Lee County Board of Supervisors meeting, a key step to receiving the funding. For one, he said he knows the vote will be 3-2 against the hospital, so he does not want to have people unhappy, thus the idea of keeping it off the agenda.

That is quite frustrating for Duane Fitch, who heads the company that manages Keokuk Area Hospital.

"We are an important provider of health care services to [Lee] County residents and we are simply requesting an opportunity to be heard by the entire Board of Supervisors and not to be blocked by a single individual," said Fitch.

Fitch released a 5 1/2 page statement following the recent Board of Supervisors meeting to address several recent reports that "have contained factual errors and misleading comments." Fitch points specifically to the reason for requesting the money.

The hospital is eligible to participate in the Rural Hospital Disproportionate Share Pool, which aims to make up for any shortfall in the amount of money a hospital spends on Medicare/Medicaid patients versus the amount it's reimbursed. The hospital could receive about $300,000 if the city and the county each provide $100,000.

"[Keokuk Area Hospital] has not asked for, nor received, any 'bailouts' from Lee County," said Fitch. "This is a grossly inaccurate characterization of the request."

Fitch said the hospital's financial outlook has been stronger the last couple of years, but he was quick to point out that there is still a long way to go, given the lower-income population served by the hospital and state and federal reimbursements not covering the services provided. He said as long as the federal funding is available, Keokuk Area Hospital will try to capture it.

"[The hospital] would like to be afforded the opportunity to make our request to the Lee County Board of Supervisors," said Fitch. "It is troubling to us that Mr. Fedler has already publicly declared what the outcome of the vote would be if we presented. We hope and expect that each Supervisor will be open minded to learning more about the hospital and that they will make up their own mind after listening to our request."

The radio story with Ron Fedler

Ron Fedler invited the hospital to come to a meeting and speak during a public comment portion, which is open to anyone in the public. There could not be a vote afterwards, though, because the supervisors can only vote on an official agenda topic.

Fitch said he questions the need for such a symbolic statement, especially after the county has awarded money to the hospital the two previous years.

The next Lee County Board of Supervisors meeting is Tues. Nov. 17.

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