It’s official —- United Hospital District (UHD) is pulling out of Winnebago.
But, a task force is working hard to ensure the health care needs of local residents are met.
In a closed-session that lasted more than one hour prior to the City Council meeting Tuesday night, council members and Rick Ash, UHD CEO, reached an agreement to sell the district’s clinic building to the city for $1.
“We’ve been working on this for a long time, to bring a doctor to town” says Mayor Scott Robertson. “We also want to have a pharmacist and dentist here.”
The hospital board has yet to vote on the sale, but Ash reassured council members he did not foresee any problems.
When council members came out of closed-session, the meeting was open to the public for comment on the proposed sale.
Abigail Anderson was against buying the building because, “We have other buildings in town we need to take care of.”
Kalene Winter agreed with Anderson saying the city’s purchase of the former school building, “Turned out not to be a big deal.”
Councilman Calvin Howard made a motion to buy the vacant building located on the corner of Cleveland Avenue and Main Street.
“I don’t believe this is an opportunity we can pass up, to bring a doctor back into town,” he says.
The clinic was closed in 2020 shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last February, Ash told Tripleanews.com, “We do not intend to close the Winnebago clinic as some have assumed. Our goal remains to open the clinic again.”
UHD officials cited the pandemic, staffing issues and costly repairs as reasons for not reopening the clinic.
City Administrator Judi Hynes has been working on next year’s budget and $7,500 has been earmarked to make the building operational.
“I think that’s extreme, we can do it under $7,500,” says Robertson. “If this is something we can do ourselves, we will and take some pride.”
Robertson says the 10-member health care task force already has a medical provider who is eager to start seeing patients.
“They (UHD) agreed to drop a 15-year “no compete’ clause and got their blessing,” he says. “We are on our own and will refer any patients to them if we have to.”