About 250 Oelwein residents turned out for a meeting on the future of the city’s Mercy Hospital Tuesday. Doctors Anthony Leo and Clay Hallberg organized the meeting after it was learned that Wheaten Franciscan Healthcare was planning to disband the local hospital board effective Thursday.
Leo and Hallberg formed the Oelwein Healthcare Coalition a couple of years ago over concerns about the hospital’s direction. Hallberg says the latest action by the hospital is a big issue.
Hallberg says the dissolution of the hospital board of directors is an "act of foul play" that they see as an attempt to get out of their legal responsibilities to the community. "This is irresponsible corporate culture, this is profiteering by a not-for-profit corporation. We feel that Oelwein deserves better representation than what the plan that this hospital has to go forward into the future with," Hallberg says.
Hallberg says they are not worried about the hospital closing. He says the hospital won’t close, but it also won’t grow under the current administration. Hallberg says the hospital needs obstetrics, mental health care and outreach programs and they have suffered from the management’s philosophy of "no margin, no mission."
Hallberg says the hospital is making money, but the money is not going back into the community. The doctors are asking residents to sign letter that gives a vote of no confidence to Wheaton and requesting that Wheaton relinquish ownership of the hospital. Hallberg says there are other things they can do.
Hallberg says residents can donate to the cause to help fund the legal representation to "make the corporation responsible." He says they can also talk to the city council and county officials and ask for a municipal or county hospital.
The president of Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare Iowa, Jack Dusenberry, issued a statement saying they are committed to continuing to provide quality care at Mercy in Oelwein. The statement also says that while the hospital board will be dissolved on the local level, the parent board that oversees the hospital will be enhanced by adding two Oelwein representatives.