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MDH CEO critical of Graham Health System’s ‘predator approach’

Graham Health System plans to open its Macomb clinic on June 5.
Rich Egger
Graham Health System plans to open its Macomb clinic on June 5.

Canton-based Graham Health System will soon open a $3 million medical clinic in Macomb. That’s not sitting well with the long-time Macomb-based health provider, McDonough District Hospital.

The matter came to a head at this month’s McDonough County Board meeting. The board voted twelve-to-seven against a resolution of consent for a bond issue by Graham.

Background on the bond issue

Graham will be issuing tax-exempt bonds through the City of Canton, payable from Graham’s revenues.

Graham Health System President and CEO Bob Senneff said the resolution allowed for an issue of up to $15 million, but the hospital will only be borrowing $12 million. He said the entire bond will be purchased by Commerce Bank.

Most of the bond money will be spent in Fulton County, but some of it is also targeted for projects in McDonough and Knox counties. In such cases, state law requires the consent of the county in which the project is to be located, which is why Graham asked the McDonough County Board to approve the resolution.

Senneff said Graham would have spent about $750,000 of the bond proceeds to complete the Macomb project. Instead, Graham will get the money from one of its other funds, and the $750,000 will be put toward an expansion project at the hospital in Canton.

“A little disappointed that we’re investing three-million dollars in the county and didn’t have permission from them to spend our own money in that county,” Senneff said.

He believes MDH pressured the county to vote against the resolution.

What MDH says

Several representatives from MDH’s leadership team spoke against the resolution during a public hearing held as part of this month’s county board meeting. They said Graham was trying to take money out of the community and urged the board to support the local hospital.

The next day, MDH President and CEO Brian Dietz told TSPR that MDH does a physician needs assessment every two years, and that there is no need for the services Graham will provide.

“What they’re bringing here already exists here. There’s literally nothing new they’re going to bring,” Dietz said. “The whole thing is a business strategy. It’s a predator approach to stealing business from here.”

Graham Health System told the county board that its facilities in Fulton County treat 350 to 400 patients per month who have McDonough County zip codes. But Dietz disputes that figure.

“The reaction all of us had when heard that was, ‘Baloney.’ We don’t see those numbers,” Dietz said.

He said there might be some outmigration from the Bushnell area, which is closer to Canton. But he said it’s not significant. He said “no one from here goes to Canton for healthcare.”

Dietz said MDH wouldn’t think about opening a clinic in Canton because Graham has been there for so long. He called Graham’s entry into Macomb “a complete non-starter.”

However, MDH has expanded outside of McDonough County. It opened a clinic in Monmouth because, Dietz said, it was treating 1,000 people a year from that community. He said MDH is meeting a need that had not been met.

Dietz said MDH will continue to go about its business in Macomb and make sure Graham is not successful.

“It hurts us financially. And we can’t afford to, being a small rural hospital, lose business of any level. So we’re going to do all we can to be competitive and we’ll see how things fall out. We think we’ve got a real good chance,” Dietz said.

Graham’s clinic in Macomb

Graham Health System’s Macomb facility at 1630 E. Jackson St. will offer family practice services five days a week and convenient care seven days a week, 12 hours per day.

“Our clinic is 95% complete,” Senneff told TSPR.

A sign outside the building said it will open on June 5.

Senneff said Graham believes there is a need in the Macomb community.

“Patients and residents in that county should have an option, whether it’s a provider option or an insurance option,” he said.

“We think there’s a need, and if we’re correct, then our clinic will do very, very well. If we’re not correct, the clinic will struggle.”

Graham Health System said it is contracted with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Medicare, all Medicaid plans, and all major insurance plans.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from 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.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.