“It’s just a really nasty blow for Northeast Missouri.”

“It’s just a really nasty blow for Northeast Missouri.”
That is how Terrell Dempsey, president of the Community Health Center’s Board, assessed the pending shutdown of the CHC following an almost hour-and-a-half closed session meeting of the board Thursday afternoon at the center, located on north U.S. 61 in Hannibal.
“We feel horrible for our employees and we feel horrible for our patients,” he said. “We did everything we possibly could to avoid this. We’re terribly, terribly sorry. We’re literally sick.”
As was reported by the Courier-Post in Thursday’s edition, no more patients will be seen at the center after Friday, Aug. 12.
Patients of the CHC, which opened in March 2007, can expect to receive a letter regarding their medical records.
“We’re asking people to contact us and make other arrangements,” said Dempsey. “We’ll provide them with their records or get their records to a new health-care provider. For those who don’t do that we’ll have to take steps to make sure their records are preserved.
“We’re trying to do everything possible with our patients and staff in mind.”
According to Dempsey, 17 jobs will be lost. He estimated the economic impact of those jobs at approximately $650,000.
“We feel terrible for our employees, all of whom are top-notch professionals and para-professionals,” he said.
Dempsey praised the CHC’s former executive director, Joan Hyneck, and its current director, Heidy Robertson-Cooper, for their efforts.
“Joan Hyneck probably put in 60 to 70 hour weeks trying to make this fly. She did an incredible job,” he said. “Heidy, the young lady that we hired to replace her (Hyneck), we had no idea this would come up as tight as it did.
“We were very hopeful that we could get the dental clinic up and going, and by seeing the right mixture of patients, we could fund the entire operation. But with the cuts it just can’t be done. There’s no way we can make it function.”

Funding cuts

A mixture of funding cuts and an increase in the number of patients with limited resources doomed the CHC, which offered medical services for a sliding-scale fee that was based on a patient’s income and household size.
“We learned on Aug. 9 we’re not getting a new Access Point Grant. There have also been cuts in state funds. And due to the financial crisis we’re experiencing, we’ve had more patients come in who are uninsured and can’t pay. We just can’t carry on without further funds,” said Dempsey.
The board president knew that the health center was in serious trouble when Congress cut $600 million that had been budgeted for community health centers.
“It makes me very angry that we can cut taxes for rich people and the effect is that we cut services for poor people. It’s just ludicrous,” he said.
When the CHC closes a number of people will no longer have a health-care option, according to Dempsey.
“We’ve had thousands of patients in mental health, dental health, primary and family medicine. We saw people on a sliding-scale basis. There’s nobody else in the area seeing a lot of these folks. It’s just a real tragedy,” he said. “When you add this to the closure of our in-patient mental health facility (Woodland Center for Mental Health) it’s just terrible.”

Dental service

While the CHC is closing, Dempsey noted that an area dental clinic will remain open.
“It’s going to be operated by the Kirksville Community Health Center. It’s not even going to close. It will open again on Monday. They’re going to assume responsibility for payroll, so any patient going there for dental work can still go up there,” said Dempsey.
The building and equipment of the CHC will be sold.
“We’ve got to take care of our creditors. Anything that we get in excess of what we owe to our creditors has to go to continue our mission, providing health care for those who don’t have access to it,” said Dempsey, who indicated that the money owed creditors is “less than the assets we own are worth.”