WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Keokuk Hospital Ending Pursuit of County Money; Roundtable Cancelled

Apr 27, 2016

Keokuk Area Hospital has been trying for months to secure money from Lee County for use as a local match for some federal funding. It appears that effort is over -- at least for the time being.

The Board of Directors for Keokuk Health Systems, which includes KAH, said in a newsletter Friday that the hospital is eligible for about $500,000 through the Federal Rural Hospital Disproportionate Share Pool Program. The breakdown would be about $225,000 from the city of Keokuk and Lee County and about $275,000 from the federal government.

"We are very grateful to the city of Keokuk for approving their 1/2 of the required local tax revenue contribution and therefore the hospital will receive $250,000 under the terms of the agreement," wrote the Board in the newsletter. "The other $250,000 will go unclaimed due to the Lee County Board of Supervisors lack of action. This is a very unfortunate outcome for the hospital and the county."

When asked to clarify whether this meant the deadline had passed for federal funding during this budget cycle, Duane Fitch, who heads the firm managing KAH, replied via email:

"Due to the delay associated with the County's lack of action, [KAH has] had to file a State Plan Amendment to lower the amount of the requested matching funds and therefore, [the additional funds] are lost."

It's unclear whether Keokuk Area Hospital will seek county support during the next budget cycle. Fitch has said on many occasions that the hospital will keep requesting financial help as long as federal money is available.

The newsletter further states that the dollars requested from the county do not represent a "bailout," which is how the request for roughly $111,000 had previously been described by Lee County Board Chairman Ron Fedler.

"For perspective, the amount requested from the County represents approximately 1/2 of 1% of the overall Keokuk Health Systems budget," wrote the board.

"The County's lack of foresight to secure these available Federal dollars will, however, require the hospital to reduce its operating expenses by an additional $250,000 annually. This is an absolute travesty and completely avoidable as the dollars to fund the impacted services are readily available."

The repeated denials by three members of the Lee County Board of Supervisors (Ron Fedler, Rick Larkin, & Don Hunold) prompted the formation of a citizens committee to look into the impact of Keokuk Area Hospital closing. The idea was to bring together local health providers to show that if KAH closed, the services of nearby facilities would be severely affected.

That meeting, originally scheduled for Thursday, April 28 in Keokuk, was canceled Wednesday morning after several planned participants backed out. As it turns out, Keokuk Area Hospital did not support the idea of calling the meeting, even though it was done with the hope of securing county funding.

"Although well intentioned, the very existence of a public conversation around the closure of the hospital has the potential to do great harm," wrote the KMS Board in the newsletter. "The hospital is not closing so there is no need to create a hypothetical around it.

"Although fragile like many rural hospitals, we have made great strides in our turnaround journey and all of our efforts moving forward will be focused exclusively on positioning the hospital to meet the needs of Keokuk and the surrounding communities for years to come. We have not spent one minute discussing closing the hospital and there is no reason to begin that conversation now."