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Merger discussions among many recent changes to Marshalltown hospital

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY A portion of the UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Medical Park facility is shown recently. The complex was built at a cost of $35 million and houses numerous out patient services.

Should a proposed merger between Sanford Health of Sioux Falls, S.D. and UnityPoint Health be approved by the end of this year, it will mark the second major change in administration in the past two and a half years for local and area UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown employees.

Importantly, it will impact nearly 60,000 Central Iowans who depend on UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown and clinics in Conrad, Marshalltown, State Center and Tama-Toledo for a host of medical services.

On Sunday, the Times-Republican reported a consulting organization who has advised UnityPoint Health and Sanford Health suggested the two large health care providers discuss a merger, per UnityPoint Health officials.

“Conversations began between UnityPoint Health and Sanford Health upon the introduction of an external consulting organization that has worked on strategic and operational priorities for both health systems,” UnityPoint Health officials said.

Officials from both UnityPoint Health and Sanford Health announced more than two weeks ago the two health care providers plan to merge. Such an agreement would create a sprawling health system in the northern Plains and Midwest.

UnityPoint Health owns Marshalltown’s hospital, its nearly four-year old Medical Park near the intersection of Highway 14 and U.S. Highway 30 and and many others in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

UnityPoint is one of Iowa’s two dominant hospital and clinic systems. The MercyOne system is the other.

On May 1, 2017, UnityPoint Health-Waterloo officially became owners of the former Central Iowa Healthcare assets as a result of a nearly $12-million dollar asset purchase agreement approved by the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Des Moines earlier in the year. Consequently, CIH officially became UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown on that date.

Many employees who had worked through the CIH bankruptcy had breathed a sigh of relief upon receiving news of the purchase. In months previously, they had seen numerous colleagues released as part of cost-cutting efforts. Other colleagues left for professional opportunities elsewhere due to uncertainty.

Since then, a number of significant developments have taken place at the local hospital:

May 2017

• Dustin Wright is appointed president of UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown and Jennifer Havens vice-president of operations.

• A new board of directors for UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown is announced.

June 2017

• The UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Area Paramedic Services, along with other Marshall County first responders, receive Mission Lifeline Achievement Award for pre-hospital care.

• UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Diagnostic Imaging Services is ranked in the 99th percentile nationally for mammography service by Press Ganey.

August 2017

• UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Foundation launches the “Lights and Sirens … Keep Them Rolling” campaign to purchase two new ambulances.

October 2017

• Dr. Ross Huffman and Dr. Lance VanGundy return to UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Emergency Department.

• UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Med/Surg/Peds/Tele Unit has 100 percent top box ratings for nursing communication on Press Ganey survey.

November 2017

• Dr. Arnold Delbridge and Dr. James Crouse begin orthopedic services in Marshalltown.

December 2017

• The UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Foundation is awarded a Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation Challenge Grant.

February 2018

• The UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Foundation attains $400,000 goal for purchase of two new ambulances.

March 2018

• UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown launches its new website.

• UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown hosts its first “You Matter Day” for patients and employees in honor of the new UnityPint Health Brand Promise.

April 2018

• Three new practitioners begin working in the Emergency Department.

June 2018

• Local hospital officials announce they would close the Catheterization Lab at the downtown campus. The lab previously offered 24/7 emergency cardiac care.

“Over the past year, UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown has been extremely focused on developing efficiencies and opportunities to right-size the organization and develop a path for the future after CIH filed for bankruptcy,” Wright said at the time. “As part of operational sustainability efforts, there have been ongoing assessments of the appropriate level of services for Marshalltown and what essential services need to remain in operation. After a thorough review, it has been determined that the Catheterization Lab will close July 1.”

Despite the cuts, the hospital remains full-service and more than 60,000 residents utilize it for a wide variety of health care services.

July 2018

On July 19, a devastating EF-3 tornado crushes many Marshalltown businesses and homes over a nine-mille path north of Boone Street. UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown staff in the Emergency Department help dozens of residents suffering from numerous but non-life threatening injuries.

Hospital patients are evacuated to UnityPoint Health facilities elsewhere. The downtown hospital and clinic suffer roof damage.

October 2018

• Wright announces his resignation from UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown to become Chief Executive Officer with Floyd Valley Healthcare in Le Mars.

He worked for Marshalltown operations 18 months. Officials announce Shari King has been appointed interim vice president of operations for the organization while Jenni Friedly continues as president.

King came to UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown from UnityPoint Health – Waterloo where most recently she’s been serving as vice president of operations. She has been with UnityPoint Health – Waterloo 23 years, starting her career as a physical therapist. She has held multiple executive leadership positions the last 18 years overseeing operations of multiple inpatient and outpatient clinical departments.

November 2018

• A UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown press release announces the closure of the Intensive Care Unit effective Nov. 30 in the downtown campus and The Bistro cafe in the Medical Park in an effort to attain sustainability. Additionally, the hospital announces it had lost $7 million per year to date. Corporate projections for loss at that point estimated it would be 50 percent less, equivalent to $3.5 million.

“Decisions such as this are very difficult but necessary if we are to course correct and place Marshalltown on a path to financial sustainability,” an organization press release read. “As health care continues to change we must make thoughtful, strategic decisions that position our organization for the future and support our ability to carry out our mission over the long-term.”

The ICU has averaged one patient per day, according to the release, and the cafe was operating at a significant loss. The ICU has been a 51-year-old fixture at the hospital.

The original ICU debuted in 1967, when the hospital was known as Evangelical Hospital and a second hospital, St. Thomas Mercy, operated on the city’s west side. With elimination of the Cath Lab and ICU, UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown focus on providing emergency department care, obstetrics-gynecology and more.

In addition to the 49-bed Marshalltown hospital, UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown operates a $35 million, state of the art Medical Park near the intersection of Highway 14 and Highway 30 which opened August 2015. The Medical Park is home to a multiple award-winning Wound Clinic as well as a host of other services, including Diagnostic Imaging, Urgent Care and Physical Therapy.

June 2019

• UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Foundation volunteers announce Dr. Lynn DeSotel of Marshalltown will share her story of overcoming breast cancer, and the importance of women getting mammograms at the Eighth Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon Oct. 10. Held at the local Elmwood Country Club, the event has become increasingly popular, with recent luncheons packing the main dining-room and two adjoining overflow rooms with attendance of 300 or more.

The UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Foundation uses proceeds to help fund free mammograms for non-insured or under-insured women in the UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown service area, which includes Conrad, State Center and Tama-Toledo.

Lunch proceeds and other funding sources make possible free mammograms to eligible recipient’s twice per year with assistance from UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown staff and McFarland Clinic radiologists. 

July 2019

• Come July 19, UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown Volunteer Coordinator Nora Byers and 10 high school student volunteers will have inspired tornado-weary residents to carry on.

Byers and students from Marshalltown High School, East Marshall High School and West Marshall High School will have painted dozens of rocks with UnityPoint’s “You Matter” slogan.

The team will place them around town beginning July 17 for residents to find and be encouraged, Byers said.

Byers and the students understand that while many residents and businesses have been able to rebuild, many others have struggled to resolve insurance issues, are waiting for repairs or wondering if their lives will ever be the same.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com