Medical clinic to expand services with new clinic
By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Rural health care just got a shot in the arm with the announcement this month that Mercy Ottumwa Medical Clinic will expand its primary care presence and add an urgent care clinic in Ottumwa. Supporters of the $18 million project say it’s a boost for the health and well-being of the region’s residents and for economic and environmental revitalization.
“It’s an $18 million investment in a 32,000-square-foot brand new medical clinic. It will really augment some of the medical services here and allow them to get better and grow more,” said Ottumwa Mayor Tom Lazio, a member of St. Mary Parish of the Visitation, Ottumwa. He describes the Mercy Clinics system as “high quality, very compassionate, with a Christian mission and values. I think that will serve them well in working with the multitude of people who come through the clinic.”
“This new clinic will provide modern, patient-centered space to grow our practice in a 21st century environment,” said Dr. Peter Reiter, medical director of Mercy Ottumwa Medical Clinic and a member of St. Patrick Parish, Ottumwa. “Our expanded services will provide better quality and access to local health care for our patients. My partners and I look forward to the opportunity to grow and improve health care for Ottumwa and the surrounding area.”
RB Developers, LLC, based near Grand Rapids, Mich., is developing the clinic and will lease it to Mercy Ottumwa Medical Clinic. It is slated for completion late next spring. Dr. Reiter anticipates growth in the 38-member staff as well. Nineteen new positions are expected in the coming years, including a physician who will start in August (bringing the number of physicians to five). Other future positions will include Physician’s Assistants and Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners. “One of the goals, in addition to providing state of the art, 21st century care for our patients, is to make it attractive for additional physicians to join us,” Dr. Reiter said.
Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation gave a big boost to the project with a $600,000 grant to help cover the cost of digital technologies. “In an era when
available capital for such projects is extremely limited, the foresight and support of the foundation’s staff and board truly allowed this project to proceed,” said Dr. Wael Haidar, president of Mercy Clinics in Des Moines. The Ottumwa clinic is affiliated with Mercy Clinics and its parent corporation, Mercy Medical Center, Des Moines.
“The Mercy Ottumwa Medical Clinic will feature many of the elements that contribute to a vibrant and growing community — health-related jobs, revitalization of a key site in the city, expanded health-related services and options, all in a state-of the-art facility,” said Brad Little, CEO of Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation.
“We believe building a new, state-of-the art clinic campus will represent a turning point in health care in Ottumwa and elevate the overall quality of health in the region,” said Joe LeValley, senior vice president of Mercy Health Network. “The new clinic will create the opportunity to attract and increase the number of high quality providers, create a beautiful new campus where an abandoned building sat, and position Ottumwa to be the hub of primary and secondary health care services in the region. … The new facility will be nearly triple the size of our existing, outdated and inefficient clinic.”
The property on which the new clinic will be built was home to a vacant grocery store (now demolished), and was identified as a brownfield site. That meant its
redevelopment was complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance. In this case, the old grocery store contained asbestos, which had to be removed before the building could be demolished, explained Sharon Stroh, executive director of Ottumwa Economic Development Corp. “With its reuse as a professional medical services center — as opposed to a former, 36-year-old grocery store that has been vacant since 2009 — you can see the significance of this project.”
Civic and business leaders shoveled scoops of dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony July 15. Father Patrick Hilgendorf, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Ottumwa, prayed that the clinic will be a blessing to the community and the people served there.
Mercy Ottumwa specializes in family and internal medicine and will add urgent care at the new clinic along with on-site physical therapy, Dr. Reiter said. At present, Ottumwa has one hospital, Ottumwa Regional Health Center, which operates a walk-in clinic and plans to open a quick-care clinic. Other health care providers are River Hills Community Health Center, Maternal and Child Health Services, VA Ottumwa Clinic, Pella Regional Health Center Medical Clinic and Ezra Free Clinic. Sister Irene Munoz, CHM, multicultural minister for the Ottumwa area, said she often sees people waiting in line at the free walk-in clinic.
“I think there’s a great need in the community for health services,” Sr. Munoz said. People are familiar with the area where the new clinic will be built. “I think it will be busy and we will use it. … I know Dr. Peter Reiter has been the forerunner of many good things. We trust him in his belief about doing this.”
Breaking the trend
At a time when rural areas struggle for access to health care, Mercy Ottumwa Medical Clinic is bucking the trend. Joe LeValley, senior vice president, Mercy Health Network, Des Moines, explains why. “To attract and keep physicians and mid-level providers who can make Ottumwa a true regional center of excellence for health care, we need to build an attractive environment for work and healing. A spacious, welcoming, modern environment, with up-to-date equipment and amenities, with room to grow as provider’s practices grow, is vitally needed.
“Today, a high quality physician can practice anywhere in the country. A nationwide shortage of primary care physicians results in fierce competition for the best people.” The new clinic “will significantly impact our ability to recruit and retain the highest quality physicians and other health care professionals.”
RB Developers is building and will own the facility, as is standard in many new clinic buildings, LeValley said. Mercy will pay for the clinic over a 10-year lease. The $600,000 grant from the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation is helping to fund some of the capital and start-up costs.
Mercy Ottumwa Medical Clinic has been affiliated with Mercy Clinics in Des Moines since July 2013 when Ottumwa Internal Medicine North and Ottumwa Family Practice and Specialties combined. Mercy Clinics is described as central Iowa’s largest multispecialty clinic system with more than 300 doctors in 50 primary care and specialty clinic locations in Dallas, Guthrie, Polk, Wapello and Warren counties. Mercy Clinics is a subsidiary of Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines, which is a member of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), a national nonprofit health organization headquartered in Englewood, Colo., and Mercy Health Network, which is co-owned by CHI and Trinity Health, located in Livonia, Mich.
When Mercy Ottumwa moves into its new clinic its former space will become home to the Iowa Heart Center, a subsidiary of Mercy Clinics, which has provided cardiovascular services in Ottumwa since 2006. That building will be updated and remodeled.