Hospital to 're-examine' cross-border services

WATSEKA — The newly hired chief executive officer of Iroquois Memorial Hospital in Watseka said Friday he would like to “re-examine” the possibility of the hospital offering home-health services in two rural counties across the Indiana border, now that the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department has nixed its own plan to do so.

“I think we probably will (discuss the possibility). I’m certainly looking at any opportunities there may be. So it’s certainly worth another look, that’s for sure,” hospital CEO/Administrator Chuck Bohlmann said.

Public health officials in Benton and Newton counties in Indiana said last week that they would welcome more home-health services for their residents. Due to budgetary and staff constraints, both counties’ health departments are unable to provide home health, relying instead on Jasper County Hospital medical staff to travel to the area to provide the service.

The Ford-Iroquois Public Department was preparing to expand its home-health program into the two Indiana counties to address a need for more home-health services there, but then it dropped the plan, after Iroquois County State’s Attorney Jim Devine said the move would be against Illinois law.

The Ford-Iroquois Health Department’s home-health coordinator, Mary Cahoe, had researched the need for providing the service in Indiana and found there to be “a lack of medical services available locally,” according to the agency’s proposal to license a home-health branch in Kentland, Ind. The eight-page proposal was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Jasper County Hospital, based in Rensselaer, Ind., already provides home-health services to all of Newton County and a portion of northern Benton County that includes Earl Park and Gilboa Township.

However, the hospital told Ford-Iroquois Public Health officials that “they would welcome our services due to the distance that they must travel to provide services outside of Jasper County,” according to Ford-Iroquois Public Health spokesman Julie Clark.

“A more local presence to satisfy home-health needs could be supplied by (the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department) if our home-health agency was licensed in Indiana,” the agency’s proposal stated.

On Friday, Iroquois Memorial Hospital’s Bohlmann said he would have no problem competing to provide the service if it means improving it.

“If there’s a need, we’ll fulfill that need,” Bohlmann said.

Bohlmann, who has only been working as CEO of IMH since Dec. 24, said the hospital does not have a license to operate its home-health program in Indiana.

The hospital had looked into the possibility of expanding its home-health program to Indiana several years ago, said Bohlmann, who held a different position at the hospital at that time. However, there was a “moratorium” on new home-health licenses being granted at that time, he said.

Also, “at that time, the numbers weren’t there to make it a profitable opportunity,” he said.

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