Mercy Health will end its management of the El Reno city-owned hospital. The news came Monday morning. Mercy employees were notified the hospital has decided to provide the required six-month notice to the city about its plans to discontinue management operations.
Mercy officials said the plan now is to build a clinic that will focus “on expanding physician services, including both primary care and medical specialties as well as urgent care. This new health care model represents a new direction in Mercy’s approach to health care in El Reno.”
“We are excited to build a new outpatient facility that offers the type of care that residents most want and need in El Reno, including both primary and specialty care,” said Jim Gebhart, president of Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City and regional strategy officer for Mercy.
The move comes after Mercy said it lost $2.9 million in El Reno last year and experienced a loss of more than $700,000 in the first quarter of this fiscal year.
Gebhart said health care has changed “not only in El Reno but throughout the country.” He said physicians find it very difficult to build a sustaining practice in small communities.
When Mercy took over management of then Park View Hospital in 2010, the hospital had an average of 12 patients per day.
Gebhart said that number has declined now to where the hospital has an average of 12 patients per month.
At the same time, every year approximately 600 patients choose to drive from El Reno to Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City for hospital care, he said.
Gebhart said a location for the new expanded clinic has not been finalized, but he said that should happen in the coming days. He said it is hoped construction could begin within 30 to 60 days of deciding the location.
Gebhart said the new clinic will feature the following providers and services based on need:
• Family medicine
• Internal medicine
• Imaging services
• Lab services
• Walk-in urgent care
• Pain management
• Home health
• Wound care
• Physical therapy
• EMS services
• Virtual medicine
It will also feature a helipad so patients can be transferred to a higher level of care when needed.
Gebhart said Mercy plans to operate ambulance service for El Reno.
El Reno Mayor and Acting City Manager Matt White said the news about the hospital lease is not surprising.
“Mercy has been sharing the numbers with us for the past several months and the bottom line is the community is not using the hospital. It just isn’t feasible to build a new hospital if it’s not going to be utilized.”
White said the main services necessary, in his opinion, are ambulance and emergency room care.
He said El Reno is in a better position than other communities such as Pauls Valley which recently saw its hospital close under a large debt.
“We have about $2 million in our hospital fund and we have a building, so yes, we’re in much better shape.”
Gebhart said other small communities in Oklahoma and elsewhere should probably expect to experience similar issues.
He said the model being pursued in El Reno now could become one that is duplicated in other communities.
“While inpatient care in a rural setting is economically challenging, we remain deeply committed to the El Reno community,” Gebhart said.
“We believe this new strategy for outpatient care offers the appropriate level of services closer to home and will allow us to be good stewards of our resources, assuring our ability to continue to serve the community for many years to come.”
Approximately 100 Mercy employees work at Mercy Hospital El Reno. Gebhart said nearly half of these employees provide services that will remain in the community such as home health, physical therapy, wound care and EMS.
He said Mercy’s human resources team will work with the remaining employees individually to offer resources and explore the possibility of transferring to open positions within the Mercy system.
Mercy assumed management operations in 2010 when the hospital was known as Park View. It was hoped Mercy could cut the losses experienced by the hospital which at the time were $1 million per year.
But the hospital never attracted the patient numbers needed.
“People aren’t using the hospital,” White said. “We get that. Health care has changed.”
El Reno’s hospital history
1954: Parkview Hospital opens
1969: Hospital begins offering emergency services
1984: Parkview Hospital adds home health services
1989: Hospital expands its physical therapy department
1992: Emergency Services establishes a satellite ambulance service in Hinton
1994: Hospital’s multispeciality clinic opens, offering cardiology, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology, orthopedics and urology services
2010: Parkview Hospital becomes Mercy Hospital El Reno
2018: Mercy says it won’t renew lease agreement