Oelwein foundation turns down offer to purchase Mercy Hospital - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Oelwein foundation turns down offer to purchase Mercy Hospital

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OELWEIN (KWWL) -

Tuesday night, a group of Oelwein residents announced its decision to turn down an offer to purchase the town's only hospital from Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare (WFH). The Oelwein Community Healthcare Foundation held a public meeting at the middle school to discuss the next steps for the community.

In December, after years of controversy over how Oelwein Mercy Hospital is run, WFH's President and CEO placed a full page ad in the local paper, giving the town 90 days to either purchase the hospital or move on. The deadline for that offer is Monday, and a local foundation made the decision, they're walking away from the table, but not the fight.

"It's a sad situation to see how this hospital...what it has become," said Gene McCann, an Oelwein citizen who attended Tuesday's meeting.

McCann is among a growing number of residents in Oelwein, who say they are tired of watching WFH drain the resources out of Mercy Hospital.

"You look at Sumner, West Union, Independence, Manchester, they've all got very good facilities and here we sit with a skeleton. Its not a hospital at all," McCann said.

Last year a group of 21 residents formed the Oelwein Community Healthcare Foundation. Their goal is to improve care in the community -- they even approached Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare about purchasing the hospital.

Wayne Saur, a local lawyer and one of the spokespeople for the group, said initially WFH told them the hospital was not available for purchase. But then...

"All of the sudden open up the paper December 6th and here's this big full page ad. You've got 90 days to raise 8 million dollars. Go," Saur recalled.

Saur says, his foundation jumped at the chance. But he believes the deal was all talk and no substance.

"There was no negotiating it was $8 million. We were never clearly explained how that figure was calculated. How do you get a loan when you can't show your lenders where that figure came from," Saur said.

Tuesday's meeting was primarily to let the community know the deal won't happen. But they're not giving up. Instead they're trying a different route.

"No, we're not going to go away. We're going to continue to work on educating the public," said Saur.

"We need a new hospital. The way they've run this hospital into the ground is pathetic. Why anyone would be opposed to building a new hospital is beyond me," said McCann.

Building a new hospital will take a lot of work money and more meetings, but McCann for one thinks its the only option for Oelwein.

"Well....its the heart of the community," McCann said.

We did contact Wheaton Franciscan Heathcare for this story. They did not want to comment. President and CEO Jack Dusenbery has said in the past he hoped whatever came out of the decision would "bring this chapter to an end", so WFH "can build a healthy future" with the community.

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