October 7, 2008

Hallsville Forming Community Health Clinic


Hallsville residents are taking the community's health care into their own hands.

Nearly a year has passed since University Physicians loaded a moving truck and left the community without a health clinic. Now, legislation that puts the community in the driver's seat as a rural health pilot project could soon bring a clinic back to Hallsville.

The Hallsville Area Development and Rural Health Corp. is interviewing doctors this week, looking for one or more physicians to staff a local clinic. The corporation's 11-member board, still awaiting official designation as a not-for-profit entity, was formed under legislation championed last year by state Rep. Steve Hobbs, R- Mexico.

"It seems we're being abandoned in northern Boone County by the current health-care system," said Hallsville developer John Schloot, who owns Townsquare Business Center, where the University of Missouri operated a health clinic for six years.

University Physicians closed the Hallsville clinic at the end of November 2007, citing losses of around $150,000 annually. In July 2006, when university administrators announced plans to close the clinic by October of that year, opposition from residents and local businesses eventually persuaded University Physicians to delay the closing until November.

When the clinic continued to lose money, the university closed the doors, MU Health spokeswoman Mary Jenkins said. In January, MU opened a new clinic with eight doctors, a pharmacy and radiology services in northeast Columbia at Oakland Gravel Road and Smiley Lane, just 15 miles south of Hallsville.

Hobbs has continued to echo Hallsville's health-care needs, he said, "because the people in Hallsville want their own clinic. They're loyal people. And they want people who are loyal to them."

Schloot, along with city, state and county elected officials, began looking for another local health-care provider even before the clinic closed.

Hallsville's hopes for a new clinic hinge in part on a $900,000 grant request from the Missouri Foundation for Health. The request, submitted by the Audrain Medical Center Foundation in Mexico, would provide funds in addition to private donations that receive a 50 percent tax credit and a 50 percent match of state funds under the Rural Missouri Healthcare Access Initiative, sponsored by Hobbs.

"With those monies, we'll be able to establish a very comprehensive clinic with telehealth and a lot of services that have not been offered in northern Boone County in the past," said Schloot, who along with his wife, Rose, made a $10,000 donation in August to kick-start the fundraising effort to reopen the clinic.

"Yes, I will benefit as a landlord," Schloot said, noting that he has turned down prospective tenants looking at the vacant clinic quarters for something other than a health clinic. "Health care is that important to Hallsville. It's definitely both an economic development issue and a health-care issue for northern Boone County."

Reach Jodie Jackson at (573) 815-1713 or [email protected]

Originally published by JODIE JACKSON Jr. of the Tribune's staff.

(c) 2008 Columbia Daily Tribune. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.