Oelwein Mercy Hospital operating room to close - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Oelwein Mercy Hospital operating room to close

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OELWEIN (KWWL) -

Low patient numbers are pushing Mercy Hospital in Oelwein to close its operating room services.  Mercy's parent company, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, is closing the OR as of September 5.  And many in Oelwein are concerned about the impact the closure will have on the community.

Mercy Hospital in Oelwein is the place many in the area go for their healthcare needs.  But soon, one key hospital service will be going away.  The operating room is set to close in less than a month, drawing concerns from some in the community.

"It's a quality of life issue.  For elderly people, the first thing they look at is local healthcare and the services available.  For perspective industry locating, they'll look at the school system and healthcare available.  And without a surgery facility available in a hospital, the healthcare is really lessened in quality we feel," said Ken McDonough, with the Citizens Coalition for Excellence in Oelwein Healthcare.

Patients are now left to reschedule planned surgeries at other hospitals, which will mean longer travel for local families to get care.

"I think they need to keep it so we have the services here, and we don't have to run all the way to Iowa City or Waterloo," said Katie Bradley, Oelwein resident.

Dr. Anthony Leo was given notice to vacate his surgical office at Mercy Hospital last summer.  He now runs his practice from an office across the street.  He's concerned that shutting down Mercy's operating room could be just the first step in the loss of other hospital services.

"I'm not surprised by what has happened here.  I predicted it, unfortunately.  And I also feel that they will close the facility as an acute care facility very soon...And it's very unfortunate.  We have to find a better way," Dr. Leo said.

But Mercy says it remains committed to care and will continue offering other services.  In a statement, the hospital's parent company said the following:

"As a not-for-profit critical access hospital, Mercy Hospital Oelwein strives to provide high quality health care to the community. To that end, we continually evaluate the quality and the services to be sure they are meeting the needs, safely and appropriately, in this community. Consistently low surgical volume at Mercy Hospital has prompted our business decision to close the operating room effective September 5, 2011.

At this time we believe our resources are better devoted to services such as outpatient, emergency and primary care. Covenant Clinic Oelwein and specialty outreach clinics will continue to provide services to the community. Starting this August, Jason Stanford, DO, orthopedic surgeon, will be the latest specialist to begin having office hours in Oelwein.  Additionally, remodeling of the fourth floor Outpatient Center continues and we look forward to moving into the updated space in the coming months. We are thankful for the continued support of our experienced and efficient staff here at Mercy Hospital and Covenant Clinic."

Still, there are lingering concerns in Oelwein about the ripple effects that closing the operating room will have on the community.

"If you don't have people coming into the community, you don't have people in the hospital, you don't have visitors, you don't have the staff.  And all those people spend money in our community, whether it's meals or gasoline or whatever.  And those dollars are important to a small community," McDonough said.

For now, the local group Citizens Coalition for Excellence in Oelwein Healthcare will be working to see what options are available to keep and possibly restore hospital services to the community.

The hospital has not said whether the operating room closure will lead to staff layoffs.

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