KEOKUK, Iowa — In response to consistently low demand for inpatient and emergency room care, Blessing Health will close its hospital in Keokuk, Iowa, on Oct. 1 and focus its healthcare resources in the region on clinic-based outpatient care. The announcement was made in a press release sent to local media Thursday morning.
The hospital has been in financial crisis for 10 years. During that time, residents of the region have developed new habits and patterns for where they receive their inpatient health care, leading the hospital to average fewer than two inpatients per day and less than one emergency room visit per hour.
Blessing leaders say the level of inpatient and emergency care demand does not support the investment required to operate a hospital of 49 beds and an emergency room around the clock, seven days a week.
In addition, a recent architectural survey by a private company revealed the hospital building required renovation and replacement of decayed vital infrastructure that could reach into the millions of dollars to complete. Based on current and expected patient use of hospital-based services in Keokuk, Blessing leaders say an investment that could total millions of dollars cannot be made responsibly.
Blessing took over management of the hospital in March 2021 from UnityPoint Health.
“We did not want this to happen. This was not our plan,” Kathy Hull, chief of small rural hospitals for Blessing Health, said in a press release.
Blessing Health Keokuk’s 147 employees will be retained until Nov. 4 in a combination of either on-site work or on administrative leave.
Blessing Health Human Resources representatives will assist those interested and qualified to apply for other open positions in the health system. They will attempt to bring other employers on to the Keokuk campus in the coming weeks for additional employment opportunities.
The hospital property will be put up for sale.
Area residents requiring emergency care after the hospital closes should call 911 so Lee County EMS can transport them to the nearest emergency department equipped to meet their medical need. Emergency care is available in Fort Madison and Burlington in Iowa, and in Carthage and Quincy in Illinois.
Patients of Blessing Health Keokuk who need their medical records transferred can go to blessinghealth.org/medicalrecords or call 217-223-8400, ext. 6600.
“We are disappointed but undaunted,” Hull said. “When we re-established our presence in Keokuk last year, we said Blessing was committed to investing in Keokuk’s health care infrastructure to revitalize the community and the region to benefit everyone. Blessing has made an investment in the community and will continue to do so through outpatient care.
“Demand for outpatient and specialty care is strong at the Blessing Health Keokuk Clinic. That is where we will focus our energy and resources to help improve the health of this community.”
Since it reopened in May 2021, Blessing Health Keokuk Clinic has expanded services with the addition of primary care, occupational medicine and other specialty services including orthopedics. These services will continue — as well as the Blessing Be Well at Work program used by area employers — and Hull says more services could be added at the clinic if demand for outpatient care continues to grow.
Blessing Health Keokuk Clinic is at 1414 Maine. For more information on the services available, go to blessinghealth.org/keokukclinic or call 319-524-0123.
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