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Rally in support of former Keokuk hospital and its employees

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Will Buss
Rev. Derek Olsen , pastor of New Testament Christian Church in Keokuk, addresses the crowd during the rally.

An estimated 250 people from throughout the tri-states area gathered late Sunday afternoon outside the former hospital in Keokuk to pray and show support for former hospital employees.

Karen and John Wardwell traveled from their home in Hamilton, Illinois to attend the event. Karen worked at the hospital for 37-and-a-half years before retiring last December. She said the hospital’s closure saddens her.

“It's a part of me, still,” she said. “It makes me sad. We need it, you know. You need a hospital.”

John Wardwell works as a certified public accountant in Hamilton. He said the hospital’s closing along with the recent closure of the ADM Milling plant in Keokuk and the Siemens plant in Ft. Madison is impacting many of his clients and the community’s economy.

“The closing of the hospital is obviously a blow to that, along with the plant closings that we've had and just a general downturn in the local economy here,” he said.

The hospital closed Saturday, Oct. 1 after decades of service in the city. Hospital owner Blessing Health announced it was closing the 49-bed hospital because of consistently low demand for inpatient and emergency services.

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Will Buss
Workers removing the emergency room sign from the building Friday afternoon.

Rev. Derek Olsen, the pastor of New Testament Christian Church in Keokuk, organized Sunday’s event. He said he was grateful for the turnout.

“It's been amazing,” Olsen said. “It's not just believers here, it's people who see a need and are so glad that we come in solidarity. We come in unity. It's promising to me because there still is hope. There's a lot of apathy, but there's still hope. And I always like to challenge God because he always comes through.”

Rev. Adam Johnson, who serves as the senior pastor at Calvary Foursquare Church in Keokuk, also helped organize the event. He said there were 17 churches represented at the gathering.

“It’s incredible,” Johnson said. “I’ve never seen this many believers from different backgrounds coming together for anything. It’s a lot of our community pouring out for this need. It is really incredible.

Keokuk resident Faith Johnson, who is not related to the reverend, said the turnout should remind the community how important the hospital is.

“I’m here because I know the value of this hospital,” Johnson said. “I know the lives that it saves lives, and it has saved lives. I know family members’ lives it has saved, and my first thought was, what will they do now?

Keokuk residents in need of emergency care must now go to either Great River Health’s Keokuk Clinic during or Quincy Medical Group during business hours.

After hours 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.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.