HCHC to begin special election education

The Henry County Health Center is getting ready to get the word out about the upcoming special election on its proposed lease with Burlington-based Great River Health Systems.

HCHC CEO Robb Gardner told the hospital Board of Trustees Tuesday that public outreach will begin next week.

“We set up a grassroots committee to get information out in the community,” Gardner said. “They will start community presentations next week.”

He added that outreach to employees has already begun, with information about the proposal being distributed to them.

The countywide election will be held March 2, with early and absentee voting beginning on Feb. 2.

“Ballots have been created, and we’re ready to go,” Gardner said.

Under the proposed lease, Great River will take over operations and control of HCHC, subject to continued oversight of the Henry County hospital board.

The board will lease certain hospital assets and transfer operational assets to Great River, which will operate the facility. The elected HCHC board will stay in place and will collect rent from Great River as well as continue to levy taxes.

The board will be expected to use those tax funds to maintain, repair and replace hospital assets when needed. Should the rent and tax revenue not be enough to cover the costs, Great River has committed to taking on the shortfall and additional expenses.

Employees will remain under the health center and be leased to Great River, which will allow the staff to remain county employees and maintain various benefits including IPERS.

Great River has agreed to continue to maintain the health center’s classification as a critical access hospital for a period of time and to continue clinical services for the next four years.

Great River has agreed to help maintain and stabilize the hospital’s emergency medical services department, which the hospital had previously attempted to move to a county-run service. Under the agreement, Great River will subsidize shortfalls of the program, up to $1.68 million over five years.