Reader says legislators were AWOL on hospital closure


Dear Editor;

An article in the Burlington Hawkeye on September 11 gave an overview of the difficulties facing Keokuk due to the pending closure of our hospital on October 1. The closure will affect more than just the people of Keokuk. I believe any of us who live in Keokuk and the surrounding area knew the hospital was facing difficulties. Surely, receiving $100,000 and $103,000 in assistance from the Lee County Board of Supervisors was a was a clear indication of financial problems. It was an issue of discussion in the county at the time. The acquisition of KAH by Unity Point with no real change in salaries or hourly pay and no significant investment in the physical structure was a concern. The acquisition by Blessing had similar results.

Maybe Blessing was relying on the passage of the Rural Emergency Hospital model as described in the article. However, Iowa has not even begun to move forward to develop regulations to allow this model to be implemented. That ball was dropped by Governor Reynolds’ administration and the Republican legislature. Other states with a high number of rural hospitals are prepared with regulations for when the law takes effect. Our rural hospitals, not just in Keokuk, but across the state are still left vulnerable. Wouldn’t our elected officials be aware of significant threats to a major Lee County employer?

Our representative and senator for Lee County claim they just didn’t know. Reminds me of the TV show “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant”. Of course, they did and chose to ignore it. They chose to ignore the needs of the people of Keokuk and the additional costs that all Lee County residents will face through the Lee County Ambulance Service.

Blessing Health CEO Maureen Kahn attempted to reach out to Representative Graber and Senator Reichman during this process. Neither offered an explanation for failing to respond to the phone calls from the CEO of a major Keokuk employer. Their excuses for not responding to her emails are unconvincing. Representative Graber was having trouble with his email during this time. His personal email? His legislative email? How long did this last? He is our elected representative and we need to be able to contact him. I’m glad to hear the problem has finally been resolved, albeit late. Senator Reichman’s statement that that he does not check his emails as often when the Legislature is not in session shows he is unaware that his job has a year long component, constituent services. We rely on our elected officials throughout the year to help us navigate state agencies and advocate for us when appropriate. Obviously, Senator Reichman does not view this as part of his job.

All of this leads one to ask if our elected officials are aware that they represent the southern part of Lee County. Our issues, our needs, and our growth is part of their job. They should have been pushing for the Rural Emergency Hospital Model regulations to be developed in the Iowa Legislature because it was critical for their constituents. Ignoring emails from a major Keokuk employer and then offering excuses no boss would tolerate is unacceptable. This also happened when the legislature passed the bill in the 2021 legislative session that counties were only allowed one ballot dropbox and they made no effort during that process to address the uniqueness of Lee County to ensure Keokuk would have a drop box. They both crossed their fingers when the issue was raised after the process was completed. Our elected officials don’t need to be residents of Keokuk. They just need to show they care with their actions. Martin Graber has failed the test and is up for re-election. Elect Rebecca Bowker to State House on November 8th.

Mary Jo Riesberg
Keokuk Iowa
319 526 3160

opinion, letter to the editor, hospital, Jeff Reichman, Martin Graber, Mary Jo Riesberg, Keokuk, Blessing Hospital, emails, contacts, Pen City Current, opinion


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