By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Though their future was uncertain, two local health care practices will continue without any interruption in services to patients and will remain at their current locations in Ottumwa.
Ottumwa Internal Medicine North and Ottumwa Family Practice and Specialties clinics are currently owned and operated by UnityPoint Health, formerly Iowa Health Systems. Back in February, they told their Ottumwa doctors and staff the health company was ceasing operations in Ottumwa on June 30. That gave the medical director, Dr. Peter Reiter, as well as his partners, an incentive to start searching for alternatives. Reiter said when they did connect with a system, it was going to have to be a high-quality partner.
He announced Thursday they have signed a letter of intent (LOI) to join Mercy Clinics, Inc., owned by Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines and a member of Mercy Health Network.
“Mercy Clinics, Inc. is an organization nationally known for its outstanding quality and for innovations in delivering primary care to patients,” Reiter said. “I and my partners are looking forward to the opportunity to grow and improve health care in Ottumwa with the support of such outstanding clinical and operational experts.”
Reiter told the Courier local clinic management had serious discussions with five potential partners. Mercy, he said, was the one with a strong organization that could also meet the necessary timeline.
The announcement Thursday morning said that when the actual relationship starts, six Ottumwa physicians and six mid-level practitioners will continue practicing in the two clinics, along with the necessary staff. That’s a bit fewer than before because, Reiter said, there were some retirements as well as the fact the clinics will now focus on primary care. In the past, in addition to that general practice family medicine, they’d had a few “specialists” on staff.
When finalized, the terms of the letter of intent call for Mercy to recruit additional physicians to the two Ottumwa clinics and to invest in improving facilities and equipment. Reiter said depending on what local doctors and Mercy believe is necessary, they may decide to add specialists back into the mix in the future.
Dave Vellinga, president and CEO of Mercy Des Moines and Mercy Health Network, said in a press release he’s glad to have the Ottumwa physicians working toward a long-term relationship.
“The more we get to know the physicians and other practitioners and staff in the Ottumwa clinics, the more impressed we are with their dedication to their patients and their community. We look forward to concluding the details of this relationship and beginning our official relationship on July 1.”
Those patients will be essential to the long-term success of the clinics, said Jim FitzPatrick, senior vice president for network development at Mercy.
“We ask all the patients and families who have used these clinics and health care providers over the years to continue their loyalty through the transition. We are confident by working together, Mercy and the local physicians … will make the excellent health care services, provided in Ottumwa for many years, even better.”
Reiter emphasized that there will be no interruption in patient care. While that seems to be due to Ottumwa staff and their new partner, Reiter said another organization deserves credit, too.
“UnityPoint has been extremely cooperative in making it as easy as possible for us to have this seamless transition,” he said.
FitzPatrick said Mercy’s plan includes longer hours, urgent care and expanded laboratory services. He noted Mercy Clinics use health coaches, disease registries and other tools which he says have demonstrated measurable benefits to patients.
Reiter characterized the pending partnership as good news.
“We fit very well geographically and philosophically,” he said.
To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark