Region 8 hospital to stay open, get renovations

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

DONIPHAN, MO (KAIT) – After years of uncertainty regarding the Ripley County Memorial Hospital, officials announced Monday that a newly formed partnership will keep the sole medical center in Ripley County open. SoutheastHEALTH of Cape Girardeau told Region 8 News Monday that the company has obtained management of the former Ripley County Memorial Hospital. The name will be changed to SoutheastHEALTH Center of Ripley County.

"The hospital management responsibilities have changed to Southeast and southeast health, which is their new organization, parent organization for southeast hospital, is now responsible for the day to day management of Ripley County Memorial Hospital," said Jerry Cole, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Ripley County Hospital. "A small hospital like us has had financial difficulties for years and Joann Emerson, which is our congressman, was instrumental in getting the two partners together."

Two years ago, Region 8 News was at the first meeting of state, local and federal officials regarding financial problems at Ripley County Memorial. Then, Rep. Joann Emerson said she'd do everything in her power to keep the hospital open. The closest medical center from Doniphan is 30 miles away.

"You've lost over half of the one hour that is referred to as the golden hour," Cole said about the possibility of a person in an emergency if the hospital closed.

"I think this is probably the single best thing that has happened to this community medically in years. our hospital was built in 1960 and since then, it's been very difficult for us as a small county community hospital to maintain the services that people have come to want and need to have as far as healthcare services delivered," said Cole.

Debbie Linnes, President and CEO of Southeast Health, said Monday she was happy the joint venture is underway. She said the company is investing more than one-million dollars into the Ripley County facility.

"Committed over a million dollars in technology that we're going to be implementing in Ripley County, one is the 64 slice CT scanner, another is a new computer system for the organization," said Linnes. "This just creates another model where we can partner with the community, look to enhance the level of our services and ultimately for our patients. our patients really benefit in this model."

Linnes said she was happy to have the support of Missouri lawmakers.

"About six or eight months ago, Joann Emerson came to us and said; I have a deep concern in have a wonderful community that is in a challenging situation and has the potential to lose access to primary care and healthcare services for the county," said Linnes.

Linnes said the hospital may be able to reduce the cost of some services to patients in Ripley County.

"Do that at a lower cost platform by coming together, for instance, on group purchasing and some of the kinds of things where we can really bring value to the community and help sustain those services," said Linnes. "A good number of hospitals are dealing with the same kind of economic challenges that Ripley County is experiencing."

Missouri state Senator Rob Mayer said the fact all 135 employees in Doniphan will keep their jobs is good news. He said other struggling hospitals could look at the affiliation between Ripley County Memorial and Southeast Health to solve their problems.

"Here is a model that can be used to keep the doors open and keep quality healthcare to rural Missourians. We're excited about that because it wasn't that long ago that there was a lot of doubt and uncertainty as to whether this hospital would continue to stay open," said Mayer. "I think it's exciting to have southeast health come to this community, because they're such a high skill, quality facility and entity that it's really going to add to this community."

"It takes a partnership. It takes teamwork to get that accomplished. That's what occurred here with local officials, state officials and of course federal officials with Congresswoman Emerson leading the charge," said Mayer.

©2010 KAIT All rights reserved.