Matt Mullins admits his goal was to open the new Keokuk Medical Center months ago. But he said in no way does that diminish his excitement for the new facility, especially after seeing so many people attend the Dec. 8 open house.
"It feels good to be almost there," said Mullins. "It's very important now that we have choice in our health care. [Patients] want to be able to choose whether to not to make an appointment or to go to a walk-in or prompt care kind of place."
The center is located in the former Keasling Pharmacy building, at the corner of 14th and Main Streets in downtown Keokuk. It's a joint venture between Fort Madison Community Hospital and Blessing Health System (Quincy, Ill.)
Mullins, who serves as Vice President for Physician Services at FMCH, will oversee the new location. He said the two health care providers teamed up to make it easier for their patients in the Keokuk area to access services.
"It just made sense, instead of making all the patients driving up to us, to bring the services to them. In Fort Madison, we are experiencing a high volume of patients, and by us opening a clinic down here, we hope this will alleviate some of the patient availability in Fort Madison."
The Keokuk Medical Center features nearly a dozen exam rooms, offices for up to three providers, laboratory space and an x-ray room.
Mullins said a family practice physician will be on site beginning Dec. 22, with another coming on board in about a year. They will be employed by the partnership. He said specialists will also be brought in from both Fort Madison and Quincy as the need arises.
"We expect to see physicians from Blessing in capacities such as cardiology and urology and from Fort Madison, perhaps pediatrics, OB/GYN, orthopedics," said Mullins. "The people of Keokuk are going to determine what services they like to see here."
The Keokuk Medical Center is expected to start out as an appointment-only service, Monday-Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm, though Mullins admitted that walk-ins will likely be welcomed on low-appointment days. He also expects new patients to selected the center for their health care needs.
"We want patients to have choice. If they want to choose to stay with their current provider, no problem, we are just giving them another choice and letting them vote with their feet," said Mullins.
That is a major concern for one of the city's largest employers
The hospital issued a news release roughly 24 hours before the open house.
In it, Duane Fitch, who heads the firm that manages Keokuk Area Hospital, said the idea behind the new clinic is obvious to him and the leadership of KAH.
"The intent of this clinic was clear a year ago and is still clear today: to attract funded primary care patients from the Keokuk service area with the ultimate goal of transitioning inpatient and outpatient revenue away from Keokuk Area Hospital and into their hospitals, which have significant excess capacity. It's as simple as that."
Fitch went on to say "we view this as a predatory strategy, which puts the very existence of the hospital in great jeopardy." That's because the insured patients are able to help the hospital maintain services that lose money, like the 24-hour emergency room, which is used by many un-insured or low-income clients.
Fitch said KAH continues to work to get past its financial struggles, and threats like this do not help.
"We are hopeful that the Keokuk community will see this initiative for what it truly is and will remain supportive of the physicians and employees of Keokuk Area Hospital.