Hospital VIPs, chamber celebrate new partnership

Members of the Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center administrative team and Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors cut the ribbon on the new name Tuesday, June 29. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center begins new unified operations Thursday

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Community Hospital sign was missing from the top of the entry way signs early Tuesday morning, but by 11 a.m. a Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center sign was up and welcoming visitors and patients to the south campus of the newly unified hospital system.

Great River Health CEO Matt Wentzel was flanked by FMCH CEO Shelby Dickens and about 35 other SIRMC staff and Fort Madison Chamber Ambassadors as the hospital unveiled it’s new brand Tuesday afternoon.

In August of 2018 Great River Health formed a partnership with Fort Madison Community Hospital to operate under the same Great River Health umbrella. However, much of the autonomy of the two separate hospitals remained aside from staff adjustments due to efficiencies in operations.

From left to right FMCH CEO Shelby Dickens; Matt Wenzel CEO of Great River Health, and CFO Jeremy Alexander pose in front of the new Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center sign on the former Fort Madison Community Hospital campus Tuesday. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

In December of 2020 Great River health announced it would apply for Sole Community Hospital classification to enhance reimbursements through Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service. To get to that designation, the hospitals had to join under one brand to sidestep some proximity limitations on the classification.

Wentzel said the opportunity puts the hospital on better reimbursement footing and allows it to move forward with their vision sooner.

“This was an opportunity that came up that we took advantage of where we have two hospitals and if we form one hospital with two campuses then we get the appropriate level of reimbursements to help make sure we’re – No. 1 stabilizing health care in southeast Iowa, and No. 2 being able to get to our vision of empowering people and fulfilling our dreams that much quicker.” Wentzel said.

He said the transition has been challenging, but smooth, and absolutely the right decision to make.

“It’s been both. I think that as humans its just tough as we go through change and given the opportunity to change or not most would say ‘Aah, I’m good’ but we’ve gone through the past years and I commend staff at Fort Madison and Great River, as well as the boards for making decisions to allow this go through,” he said.

“We’ve done it, and it’s the right work, and it needed to be done.”

Dickens said she wanted to recognize the staff of the organizations in helping make the partnership a reality.

“We appreciate all the ongoing support and encouragement from our community and I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for celebrating this with us,” Dickens told the group.

She said the efficiencies that revealed themselves during the past three years have allowed the hospital to become more streamlined and will provide stronger, more encompassing quality of care for southeast Iowa.

“At Fort Madison, we realized a lot of resources that we did not previously have. We’ve been able to partner in daily processes to be able to adopt the best practices from each campus. Both campuses have really benefited from that,” she said.

“It’s taking the best of both worlds from the standpoint of the services we offer, the care we provide and how we provide that care.”

Staffing will also remain at current levels for the time being, but Dickens offered that the administration will keep in tune to what health care demands dictate.

“We are where we are. As we move forward and things change we will be responsive to that,” Dickens said.

“There are no plans for other changes presently, but as a health care provider we always have to have our finger on the pulse of what’s going on and be doing the things that are in the best interest of hospital directly, and the community and patients that count on us, indirectly.”

Wentzel agreed saying there aren’t really other initiatives in the works. Henry County Health Center is also joining the system on July 1, the hospital will be going through an Electronic Medical Records conversion on July 1 and new backend system from Workday comes on line on July 1.

“I think for the next month, what the executive team has told me is that we need to come up for air,” Wentzel said.

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