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New hospital search could take year in Keokuk

Keokuk Hospital-Sept 2022.jpg

It will be a while before a new urgent care provider could possibly occupy the soon-to-be vacated hospital in Keokuk.

Blessing Health announced this month that it will close the hospital on Oct. 1. The corporation cited “consistently low demand for inpatient and emergency services” for the shutdown. Blessing Health purchased the 49-bed hospital from UnityPoint Health in March 2021.

City leaders have been searching for a new 24-hour urgent care provider to replace Blessing.

City Administrator Cole O’Donnell said Congress has recently approved a bill to permit rural communities to operate emergency rooms outside of traditional hospital buildings, but the soonest that might become law is January 2023.

O’Donnell also said the state of Iowa currently does not have a building code or any necessary legislation to allow rural emergency hospitals in the state. He said that could take another year to approve.

“I've spoken with state representatives who assured me that the governor is on board and that the legislature is actually on board,” O’Donnell said.

“But they have to wait for federal rules before they can craft their legislation, so that'll come in the next session, hopefully, which then pushes the possibility of a standalone ER to probably fall 2023.”

The city has approached Great River Health and Quincy Medical Group, the two other existing healthcare providers in the city, about providing 24-hour urgent care in town. O’Donnell said neither are interested in making the investment.

“Nobody really wants to expand,” he said. “However, if somebody wanted to open the hospital, they'd have to do it differently than the way it's been done for the last 20 years. Which is don't track services but provide the service that brings people into it and don't transfer them to another facility.”

After Blessing closes the Keokuk hospital, city residents in need of emergency attention can go to Great River Health’s Keokuk Clinic during or Quincy Medical Group during business hours. Otherwise, they will have to travel approximately 20 miles north to Ft. Madison or about 20 miles east across the Mississippi River to Carthage, Illinois for emergency care.

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