Newton hospital to open clinic

Hillsboro location worries officials at county hospitals

News editor

Local hospitals are wary of Newton Medical Center’s plans to open a clinic on the east edge of Hillsboro.

President and CEO Steve Kelly confirmed Monday that the hospital plans to purchase and demolish Hillcrest Motel at 808 E. D St. and replace it with a family practice clinic.

“For us, Marion County is part of our service area,” Kelly said.

However, Marion Regier, CEO of Hillsboro Community Hospital, said extra competition concerned her.

“Their strategy is to increase in-patient admissions through primary care providers in outlying communities,” she said.

Regier said Newton Medical’s decision could be indirectly related to federal health insurance reform. Medicare reimbursements to hospitals have been cut in recent years. Expanding into other communities is one way replace lost revenue.

“Newton has been expanding their market for some time,” said Jeremy Armstrong, St. Luke Hospital CEO.

He had hoped that the presence of two hospitals in the county would have dissuaded Newton Medical.

“Our biggest concern is that we would lose ancillary services,” such as X-rays, physical therapy, and lab work, Armstrong said. “Those are services we count on to help keep our facilities going.”

The new clinic will have a basic X-ray machine and possibly basic lab equipment, Kelly said. For more complex diagnostic work, he expects the clinic will refer patients to HCH.

Regier said she hoped the clinic would follow through on those plans. She and Armstrong emphasized that patients may choose any hospital for diagnostic work regardless of who their primary care physician is.

Regier said she and higher-ups at HMC/CAH Consolidated, the company that owns Hillsboro Community Hospital, have met with Newton Medical administrators to discuss concerns, but no specific plans came out of the meetings.

Kelly said a physician was interested in working at Newton Medical’s Hillsboro clinic full-time, possibly with some nontraditional hours.

“Not everybody can always see the doctor from 8 to 4:30 every day,” Kelly said.

He said he understood why HCH and St. Luke would be wary of competition, but he said he had never seen a primary care clinic be a negative for a community.

Plans for a new Hillsboro Community Hospital remain in place, Regier said. HMC/CAH is looking for an equity partner — an investor.

 

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