Uncertain future: Hospital commission considers services to offer community
By Samantha Jones
Eureka Springs Hospital Commission is here to serve the community –– with or without Allegiance Health Management.
At a workshop Saturday, Aug. 3, the commission addressed rumors that Allegiance is getting ready to end its lease at Eureka Springs Hospital. Chairman John House said the commission is prepared for all outcomes.
"We are going to do everything we can to make sure the community of western Carroll County has the best healthcare we can possibly give them," House said, "and are dedicated to whatever it takes to do that."
The commission met to discuss services it could offer directly to the community, including services Allegiance once offered but no longer does. According to the lease agreement, House said, the commission must offer Allegiance the opportunity to offer additional services before offering such services to the community. If the commission wants to offer a service Allegiance has discontinued, House said, there's no need to give Allegiance the opportunity to have the service.
"That's fair game without any notice, because they were doing it and they stopped," House said. "We can do that."
House said it's important for the commission to become more acquainted with the community's healthcare needs in case Allegiance pulls out.
"There's a real good chance Allegiance is going to be gone before too long," House said, "and we may or may not find someone to run the hospital for us. So we may end up doing that ourselves."
The commission would need to hire a CEO if no corporations step up to run the hospital, House said, but the rest of the staff would stay the same.
"It wouldn't be mass layoffs," House said.
Commissioner Leva Murphy said she appreciates everyone who works at Eureka Springs Hospital.
"Our big purpose in existing is making sure the hospital stays open and we can't do that if we don't have staff," Murphy said. "Whatever happens, we have to make sure it's imperative we keep those doors open."
Commissioner Peggy Duncan agreed, saying she's interacted with hospital staff on many occasions.
"We have a very loyal staff," Duncan said. "They don't intend to go anywhere."
"We recognize their loyalty and how good they are to our community," Murphy added, "and we'll do everything we can to keep that going."
House said he has been surveying local doctors to determine what services are needed in the community. The biggest need, House said, is durable medical equipment. That includes oxygen, he said.
"If somebody gets discharged from the hospital and they need oxygen, that's a problem," House said, "because no one does that locally."
Another big need, House said, is MRI services. House said Allegiance used to offer MRI services, and commissioner Tyson Burden said Mercy Hospital Berryville will resume mobile MRI services on Aug. 14. House continued listing off the needs, including mammogram, OB, specialist, blood bank and pain management services.
"Everybody is having to go an hour or more to get pain medication," House said. "When you think about somebody who is already suffering from chronic pain and they're having to sit in a vehicle and drive, it's a big deal."
Duncan said very few doctors offer pain management at all.
"The ones that do –– you go to their office and you sit for two or three hours before you get seen," Duncan said.
Nationwide, Burden said, healthcare is pushing toward suboxone clinics. A suboxone clinic is a place where patients can be given an opiate that doesn't have as much euphoria associated with it, Burden said.
"It's a clinic where they actually get a shot or medication in the clinic every day," Burden said. "It's fairly lucrative for a hospital, because it's a visit every day."
Any healthcare service the commission chooses to offer, House said, would have to be housed outside of the hospital.
"What we're doing here is going to be separate from what Allegiance does," House said, "and that's part of my intention behind bringing this up. It would be good for us to get some experience in these kinds of things."
The commission's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, at the ECHO clinic community room.