OTTUMWA — Splitting services between neighboring communities won't please every cancer patient, but the change has met the goal of keeping a full system of oncology care local to southeast Iowa.
"We needed a partner," said CEO Phil Noel at Ottumwa Regional Health Center. "Preferably someone close to home."
A major reason for the change is that the Jefferson County hospital receives chemo drugs at an affordable rate. It qualified for "340b purchases." The larger facility in Wapello County, Ottumwa Regional Health Center, does not qualify and was being charged a much higher rate because of that.
It was such a high rate that reimbursement from patient insurance wasn't covering the expense. They kept at it, Noel said, but couldn't keep up the financial hardship indefinitely.
"Our goal was to continue providing cancer treatment close to home," Noel said, and yes, he acknowledged, to do so in a financially viable manner.
So they've split services between the two places; the care providers, however, are the same, as are the services available to patients now in two different counties.
Radiation treatment still takes place in Ottumwa.
In Fairfield, Noel explained, you will find "medical oncology," which includes chemotherapy. In Ottumwa, you will find radiation therapy, a different type of treatment.
Few patients require both methods of treatment at the same time, but it's not unheard of. This setup may not be as convenient for those patients, but it achieves the goal: Cancer care close to home in a financially sustainable manner.
"We are offering transportation," said Noel, "between Ottumwa and Fairfield and between Fairfield and Ottumwa. Very few people have taken us up on the offer."
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