The Ottumwa Courier

February 27, 2013

Relocation of clinic makes no sense


OTTUMWA — Allow me to express my opinion about the thinking that goes into some decisions — in this case, the proposal to move the River Hills Medical Clinic to a location outside the city. No one seems to want to publicly step up on this matter, so I will.

I believe the River Hills Medical Clinic exists primarily to provide medical services to the poor, indigent and transportation disadvantaged in Wapello County. It makes no sense to move the clinic outside of the population center of Ottumwa, which will create a hardship on patients and increase expenses to the taxpayer for infrastructure operation and extension of governmental services, including bus service. How are patients supposed to arrive at this new location if they do not own a car or cannot ride a bicycle or afford a taxi?

Local units of government, acting through the community or county planning process, have a responsibility to ensure that orderly, well-conceived land use arrangements are allowed to develop over time. The proposal to move the rural health clinic to the proposed location outside the city is contrary to good long-range planning, and I believe is a case where the city of Ottumwa and Wapello County have failed to use their power and influence to provide strong guidance to the River Hills Board of Directors. I also believe the River Hills board is ignoring its own charter by placing the convenience of doctors and other staff ahead of patients when selecting a location. What is truly appalling is the River Hills CEO’s contention that the present clinic location downtown (i.e. in the center of the population, especially of the lower-income citizens) amounts to “isolation” and “being stuck downtown.”

I urge residents to act now to oppose the proposed relocation of the community health clinic (to be partially paid for by federal funds) outside of the city limits. Contact Congressman Loebsack and U.S. Sens. Harkin and Grassley to ask them to intervene to keep the clinic downtown. Contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to express your opposition to the use of federal grant funds to move the clinic away from the people who rely on its services. The address is:

Tom Morris

Associate Administrator

Office of Rural Health

Health Resources and Services Administration

5600 Fishers Lane, Suite 5a-05

Rockville, Md. 20867

Michael Johns

River Hills patient