OTTUMWA — The hospital's child development center will close in two months and parents are now scrambling to find a new daycare center.
As parents dropped off their children at the Child Development Center at Ottumwa Regional Health Center Thursday morning, they were handed a letter written by ORHC CEO Phil Dionne, saying the center would be closing on May 24.
"Given the impending financial impact of the Affordable Care Act, and other reimbursement reductions, we need to be focused on our primary responsibility of caring for those who present themselves to ORHC," Dionne said in the letter.
Since the daycare center opened, Dionne said it has lost money on an ongoing basis, at one point losing as much as $120,000 per year and recently averaging losses of $90,000 per year.
One parent of a child at the daycare center, Eric Fullenkamp, said that as a businessman he understands that a business cannot operate with a continuing deficit, but he hopes the hospital explores options to retain the daycare center as is with the same staff.
"Everyone was pretty much surprised," Fullenkamp said. "Directly after we got the letter, I went to another daycare and filled out an application. With 70-some children all of a sudden in need of daycare, that's going to flood the market. It could be a real problem."
Fullenkamp suggested the hospital consider raising the rates families pay for daycare, though he knows some families may not be able to afford an increase.
"We're happy with the care and the people there and would hope that Ottumwa Regional could find some method to keep it open with the same staff they have," Fullenkamp said. "It's just hard to take a child of 2 years old and move them ... to get them acclimated to another place. It's scary for a kid to find a new place and start over."
The daycare center's director, Casey Zimmeht, referred all questions to hospital administration, but did say she was not involved in the decision to close the center and was notified of its closure on Wednesday.
"I feel like right now it's still a very raw emotion for all of us," Zimmeht said.