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Public health nurse to move back to county, leave UnityPoint Health

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Dr. Kerri Metzger, a member of the Marshall County Board of Health, speaks to the supervisors about not renewing its contract with UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown for public health services.

Marshall County Public Health Nurse Pat Thompson’s office will move from UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown to the county after a decision by the Marshall County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Following a Marshall County Board of Health recommendation, the supervisors decided the county will not renew its contract with UnityPoint Health to provide public health services and instead have the public health nurse be under the county.

“The county has been giving the hospital basically $85,000 per year that includes a few different services,” said board of health chairman Dr. Ken Lyons. “One is to provide in-home visits from a nurse to newborns and families within the first week after discharge from the hospital. Part of the $85,000 is also for our public health nurse, Pat, for salary and office space and some IT support at the hospital.”

The health board cited UnityPoint’s lack of well-baby visit services that had existed under Central Iowa Healthcare’s Home Care Plus program as reason for the change.

“I’ve been here some 20 years, and for 20-plus years, the hospital has provided home visits for newborns. It has helped a lot – we have a very high-risk population. It has helped somebody be out at the home, assess the home, provide services for these families,” said pediatric Dr. Kerri Metzger, also a board of health member. “It has saved a few babies’ lives, I have witnessed that.”

She and Lyons said UnityPoint has not offered that kind of home service for parents and newborns, instead asking that families make appointments with UnityPoint pediatric doctors and go to the clinic.

“It’s really helpful to have a visit in the home to assess safety and all the different things that go into raising a newborn, but also inappropriate for the hospital to say ‘Well, you can’t see your normal physician, you have to come see our providers,'” Lyons said. “We felt this was not the direction we want to continue in.”

With the health board’s recommendation, the supervisors decided they would not renew the county’s contract with UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown. That means beginning July 1, Pat Thompson will be a county employee rather than a UnityPoint employee.

UnityPoint Health released a statement Tuesday afternoon in response to the news that the contract will not be renewed as they were not made aware of changes until after the meeting.

“UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown was notified after 3 p.m. on March 19 that the (Marshall) County Board of Health will not be renewing an agreement with UnityPoint Health for Marshall County Public Health Services. While we are disappointed the agreement will not be renewed, we understand the services within the agreement will continue for the overall health and wellbeing of residents within Marshall County. It is our understanding that Pat Thompson, RN will transition as a county employee as of July 1, 2019.”

Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Dave Thompson said the $85,000 budgeted to go to the hospital could instead be invested into Pat Thompson’s county office. Along with grants the board of health normally receives, the officials said there should be little financial impact because of the move.

Supervisor Bill Patten said the county could look at leasing office space at the Great Western Bank building, where many county offices have already relocated as the Marshall County Courthouse is repaired from tornado damage.

Pat Thompson said she had a chance to survey the lower-level potential office space and said the area would work.

“The goal would be, over time … that money that you’re paying the hospital can be used in better ways to possibly find a different agency,” Metzger said.

Patten said any suggestions for a different agency to replace UnityPoint Health would best be recommended by the board of health before coming to the supervisors.

The next regular Marshall County Board of Supervisors meeting is set for 9 a.m. April 2 on the second floor of the Great Western Bank building, 11 N. First Ave.

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Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or

asodders@timesrepublican.com