Dream of close hospital ties in county now fading

Area administrators and physicians may differ about possible future collaboration between Hillsboro Community Medical Center and St. Luke Hospital of Marion, but all agree they would like to see Marion County residents save medical dollars.

Gene Winkler, president of the St. Luke Hospital Board of Directors, says plans for collaboration, are going “nowhere right now.”

“We try to share joint purchases when possible, like services on equipment,” Winkler said. “Sharing on mileage makes it a little cheaper for both of us.”

Gordon Mohn, president of Hillsboro Medical Center’s board of directors, agrees with Winkler. Mohn said there had been some joint meetings held in the past, but “right now there is nothing new, but we are always open to the idea.”

Ten miles separating the two hospitals is a practical limiting factor, said physician Don Hodson of Marion Family Physicians.

And finances are certainly a main concern for all involved.

Hodson said a recent numbers and feasibility study was done in the area that determined a new hospital would not be the answer.

“Current health care does not support rural hospitals, like what we have seen in Halstead,” he said. “We just need someone to donate $10 million.”

While there is strong cooperate efforts between the two facilities,”it is just we have exhausted what we can do,” Hodson said.

St. Luke is currently “in a situation where the hospital will survive through the foreseeable future,” he said, “and will continue to be able to offer good equipment and quality care to patients.”

Michael Ryan, administrator of HCMC, acknowledged having a good working relationship with Marion, but says there are no concrete cooperative plans at this time.

In an effort to benefit Marion County residents, Craig Hanson, St. Luke Hospital administrator, said the two hospitals are still in the talking stage and “looking for those things of mutual beneficial interest.”

Hanson said he was pleased with the second annual jointly sponsored Health Fair, which will be held in Marion on March 31.

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