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Keokuk hospital sold to Michigan-based provider

Michigan-based Insight is the new owner of the Keokuk hospital, which closed Oct. 1 under Blessing Health.

The new owners want to resume 24-hour urgent care.

Michigan-based healthcare provider Insight has completed its purchase of the Keokuk hospital.

The company announced the sale on March 27.

Keokuk Mayor Kathie Mahoney said the hospital has not announced when it will reopen or what services will be provided, but she said the new owners want to resume 24-hour urgent care in Keokuk.

“I think they're still determining on which way they are going to move forward,” Mahoney said. “In the beginning they did talk about a full hospital. I think now they may be discussing an emergency room, first, and then seeing where that leads to. But they have not put anything in writing or said that or which way they're going. I do know that even if they would decide to have a hospital, they will start with an emergency room because that's the need here.”

Former owner Blessing Health closed the hospital last fall, just 18 months after purchasing it from UnityPoint Health. Blessing cited low demand for inpatient and emergency services as reasons the hospital shut down on Oct. 1.

Mahoney said she and other city leaders are relieved to have a new healthcare provider reoccupy the 49-bed building at 1600 Morgan St.

“It's great to hear that the building was purchased and it was closed on because that means there is going to be something done there,” she said.

Mahoney is also confident that Insight will bring back the emergency room. Since the hospital closed last fall, residents in need of emergency care have had to drive 20 miles north to Ft. Madison or 20 miles east to Carthage, Illinois.

“There's a lot of people in our community that have the ability or that have family or friends that can get them to another emergency room, but there's a lot of people in our community that don't have that opportunity to get to an emergency room when they need to, unless by ambulance,” Mahoney said. “So that's a huge cost, especially if they could have someone who could have gotten them there by just driving them. So for the people that are struggling or don't have the ability to get where they need to go, it's a huge thing for them. That's probably the biggest promise of it all.”

After the hospital closed, leaders in Lee County worked to provide additional ambulances and paramedics to help fill the void.

During a special election on March 7, 76 percent of Lee County voters approved a tax levy to help fund the county’s emergency medical services. For the next 10 years, landowners throughout the county will pay 75 cents more on every $1,000 of property value to afford the additional EMS services.

The increase, which will amount to an additional $42 for the average homeowner, will be due in homeowners’ September property tax bill.

Insight was founded in 2008 and specializes in establishing and re-establishing healthcare in underserved communities.

The new owners are reviewing the Rural Emergency Hospital designation that the Iowa Legislature recently passed into law on March 20.

The designation will allow rural hospitals and those located in smaller towns like Keokuk to opt out of providing inpatient care but continue operating an emergency room.

The new legislation is in response to the Keokuk hospital closure and more than 140 other shuttered rural hospitals across the country that have left communities without emergency medical services over the last decade.

Insight Chief Strategy Officer Atif Bawanhab said in a statement the new hospital ownership is looking forward to providing critically needed medical services in Keokuk and the surrounding communities in southeast Iowa.

“We understand the urgency of the situation,” Bawanhab said. “With the necessary regulatory and financial support, Insight aims to begin providing medical services consistent with the community’s needs later this year. Insight is grateful for the productive relationships with Blessing Health and community partners through the acquisition process.”

Insight has surgical centers located throughout Michigan, a hospital in Warren, Michigan and a 400-bed acute care hospital on the southside of Chicago.

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.