Hospital changes spark controversy in Oelwein - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Hospital changes spark controversy in Oelwein

OELWEIN (KWWL) -- In a couple months, Mercy Hospital is getting a newly renovated fourth floor, outfitted for better out-patient care.

"Out-patient care is a lot more cost-effective and efficient, and so we want to be convenient for the patients," said hospital administrator Kathy Hintz.

Hintz is excited about the plans. But looking across the street, not everyone in Oelwein shares the same enthusiasm. Dr. Clay Hallberg placed one of several signs around town in front of his practice -- which just happens to be on the same block as Mercy. The sign questions the lease termination of Dr. Anthony Leo, and asks folks to attend the Thursday night meeting to find a way to keep Dr. Leo in Mercy Hospital.

"We're here to support Dr. Leo. If physicians locally here stand up to raise issues about quality of care, they're either let go like Dr. Brennen was, threatened to be arrested like I was, or they're faced with eviction like Dr. Leo is now."

In April, Dr. Leo received a lease termination notice. It stated he needs to vacate the office he's been in for two decades by the end of July. Community members are refusing to let him leave without a fight. At Thursday's meeting, they signed petitions and purchased shirts to show their support.

Dr. Leo is humbled by the two hundred-plus people who gathered Thursday night. But he's more concerned about the bigger picture -- improving the hospital his patients depend on.

"When enough people get together and come to the consensus, then that will be more powerful force in working with the Wheaton system, helping make the necessary changes that we need, or potentially we need to be sold to a system that will do that. Either they change or we need somebody new. It can't stay the way it is," he said.

Hintz believes remodeling outpatient care is a positive move for the community.

"I look for us to be strong and continuing to serve our community for the next 85 years," she said.

Hintz was not able to discuss Dr. Leo's lease termination. The hospital stated he will still be able to operate at the facility, but he will need to find a new office, outside of Mercy, to see his patients.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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