Jasper County Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 on Nov. 28 authorizing the distribution of $320,000 in unallocated American Rescue Plan Act funds to MercyOne Newton Medical Center to go towards the facility’s emergency room project, fulfilling a promise officials made at the start of the year.
Supervisor Brandon Talsma said the board had discussed the proposal in work sessions some time ago about trying to come up with a firm number to give to the hospital, which had initially asked Jasper County for a $2 million contribution. However, much of the county’s ARPA funds had been earmarked at that point.
Even so supervisors wanted to help, leading to this allocation that Talsma said could kickstart the hospital’s fundraising campaign. The chair of the board of supervisors stressed the $320,000 is not the final amount that will be given to MercyOne. But it is a dollar amount the county could give at this moment.
“That way they’re not kind of being held out there in limbo of well how much is this going to be and they’ve actually got a number to operate off of,” Talsma said. “Obviously my recommendation would be to still be, at the conclusion of any of the projects, any remaining funds to also be allocated to the hospital.”
Supervisor Denny Stevenson said the allocation will be a good start. Supervisor Doug Cupples said he felt good about the action and being able to do it.
Chad Kelley, chief operating officer of MercyOne Newton Medical Center, thanked the board of supervisors, whom he said has long set the standard for supporting health care in the community with the addition of the advanced life support program with the sheriff’s office.
“It takes community partnerships to do these sorts of things,” he said. “It’s not about the aesthetics of a department, it’s about the quality of care and safety for 10,000 patients in our community that come to the hospital … We can hit the ground running now and do our work to get more community investment.”
Talsma added, “Thank you for the pivotal role you guys play in the county and the community. We’re happy to be able to try to help you with this project.”
The new emergency room would have two different trauma bays. MercyOne Newton learned during the pandemic it was not well equipped for certain things with the infrastructure currently in place. There were negative pressure rooms and the hospital still has half its ambulance bay shut down for intubations.
In addition to the bigger rooms, the designs of new emergency room positions the behavioral health suite towards the end to allow staff adequate time to intervene in case patients elope. Right now it’s physically impossible to keep eyes on every patient. The new designs have a centralized nurse station.
The project is estimated to cost $6 million.