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New owners continue work to reopen Keokuk hospital

The city hopes Insight will reopen the shuttered hospital building by the end of the year.
Will Buss
The city hopes Insight will reopen the shuttered hospital building by the end of the year.

The new owners of the Keokuk hospital building said they remain committed to returning an emergency room to town.

Flint, Mich.-based Insight purchased the 49-bed hospital at 1600 Morgan St. last spring.

Keokuk City Manager Cole O’Donnell said the new owner needs more funding before it can reopen the hospital. He said Insight is still looking to raise enough capital in the form of grants.

“They're still committed to Keokuk,” O’Donnell said. “They’re just going to take a little while longer.”

Insight Corporate Chief Strategy Officer Atif Bawahab said they’re in the process of getting licensing.

He said the facility will be the first REH, or rural emergency hospital, in the state of Iowa.

The state legislature passed a law last March allowing for REHs. The designation allows rural area hospitals in smaller cities such as Keokuk to opt out of providing daily patient care but still provide 24-hour urgent care.

Bawahab said Insight hopes to reopen the hospital, to be renamed Insight Keokuk Area Hospital, by next spring.

“We're hoping very shortly the state of Iowa opens up that licensure application,” Bawahab said.

“We would then apply for it and then I imagine the state engineers or someone on behalf of the state would come out and inspect the facility to make sure it's up to code. We're in the process of doing some of those innovations and then we would essentially, hopefully by the end of this year or early part of next year, formally have the REH license.”

Bawahab also said Insight wants to provide support services related to lab radiology, such as CT scans and x-rays, as well as a pharmacy at the hospital.

He said Insight has completed assessments of the hospital building and is also meeting with Keokuk city leaders, as well as physicians and healthcare providers in the area to identify gaps in health care.

Insight purchased the hospital six months ago after Blessing Health closed the building in October 2022. Blessing Health had purchased it from UnityPoint Health in March 2021.

Keokuk-area residents now have to travel 20 miles north to Ft. Madison or 20 miles east to Carthage, Illinois for emergency care. This has also forced leaders in Lee County to provide additional ambulances and paramedics to fill the void.

In March, voters elected to approve a tax levy to help fund additional emergency medical services across the county.

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

Bawahab said the Warren, Mich. hospital was facing bankruptcy when Insight purchased it, and bought the Chicago hospital to help preserve urgent care for that community.

“We've had the privilege of acquiring a lot of these hospitals, that are similar to Keokuk, that were kind of owned by larger groups but had some financial difficulties to ensure the solvency of the hospitals,” he said.

“As they were exiting, they presented opportunities for us to move in and ensure a continuity of 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.