Years of disagreement over how a northeast Iowa hospital is being managed boiled over this week. The owner of Mercy Hospital in Oelwein placed a full-page ad in the Oelwein newspaper, challenging foes to buy the hospital and manage it themselves.
Oelwein Mayor Larry Murphy says the controversy started in 2007 and, unfortunately, the city got caught in the middle. “We will work with any group that’s going provide good health care services to our community,” Murphy says.
“The other point we make is no matter which direction we go, there will be a hospital here on an on-going basis because Covenant will continue to operate if no offer is made or a sale is not completed.” The controversy came to a head recently when the hospital’s managers closed its surgical unit.
“This is more a debate between a group of physicians that are probably very traditional and very good in terms of how they would prefer to deliver health care services versus, you know, being part of a larger, corporate structure,” Murphy says. “And I think that’s really probably an issue that’s shown itself here, but my hunch is over time you’ll see similar struggles not only in this state, but elsewhere.”
The price tag for the hospital is $8-million and corporate owner’s offer to sell the 25-bed facility is open for 90 days. Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, the current owner of the hospital in Oelwein, also runs hospitals in Waterloo and Cedar Falls.