OSCEOLA, Mo. -

One of the last independent community hospitals in the Ozarks will close its doors by Sept. 1.   Sac-Osage Hospital opened in November 1969 but has struggled financially in recent years.

Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar said Wednesday that it will take over a clinic in Osceola from the Sac-Osage board, but will not operate the hospital in Osceola.   CMH says it will try to hire some of the approximately 60 employees of Sac-Osage but the number is not certain. 

Rumors are circulating in Osceola that the Sac-Osage building will be razed.  That fact is not in a news release, however (see below).  Sac-Osage Hospital board chairman Brandon Baker and Chief Executive Officer Chris Smiley have not been available for comment on Wednesday.  Baker is an attorney who practices in Clinton.  Smiley was at a conference in Sedalia and relayed to a reporter that she would not be available for an interview after she returned to Osceola later in the afternoon.

Sac-Osage has often averaged only one to three patients a day in recent months.   Its monthly and annual reports showed it usually brought in less revenue each month than it spent at the hospital, ambulance service, and outpatient clinics in Osceola and Wheatland.  

The outpatient clinics often seemed to provide the revenue that allowed the board to keep open the independent hospital, a source of pride to this community on Truman Lake.  Sac-Osage once employed more than 100 people but reduced that number over the last few years to save money.  Voters approved a property tax issue in 2009 to try to keep the hospital open.

Vicky Hash, Sac-Osage's director of nursing, says occasionally the hospital census has been eight or nine, but that's rare.   Hash says part of the problem has been a lack of doctors in the area who practice at the hospital and refer patients there.

To try to bolster revenue, Sac-Osage opened a pharmacy in part of the hospital that was originally built as an intensive care unit.  It also converted some of the unused beds and rooms to hospice care.

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Hash says hospital employees were told of the deal with CMH on Tuesday, after months of rumors and work by the Board of Directors to find a bigger health care company to buy Sac-Osage or affiliate with it.  Hash said, after 28 years of working for Sac-Osage, she does not plan to apply for a job with CMH, but does not know what her next career move is.

The fate of Sac-Osage's Lake Area Primary Care Clinic in Wheatland is not addressed in the news release.  A spokeswoman for CMH in Bolivar said CMH is not taking over that clinic.

CMH administrators will meet with Sac-Osage employees next week.  A public meeting on Tuesday evening also will give Sac-Osage and CMH administrators a chance to talk about the future of the facility.

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News release from CMH:

Donald J. Babb, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of Citizens Memorial Hospital District and Citizens Memorial Health Care Foundation (CMH), announces the cooperative affiliation between CMH and Sac-Osage Hospital (SOH), Osceola.

“Even though it is with a heavy heart that the Board has decided to cease operation of Sac-Osage Hospital, we are very excited about the future of healthcare to St. Clair County residents with our new cooperative affiliation with Citizens Memorial Hospital,” says SOH Board Chairman Brandon Baker. “I believe that our new affiliation with CMH will strengthen the ability to provide high quality healthcare in Osceola by ensuring crucial services that are vital to our community are offered. Those services include strong primary care providers, full service outpatient services, a walk-in clinic, and an ambulance service.

“I ask for the support of our staff and community as we embark on this transition,” says Baker. “In the next few weeks, more information will be announced as we continue the process of transforming the delivery of healthcare to our community.”
Approval from SOH Board of Directors to affiliate with CMH was made during a vote that was held during a special meeting on Tuesday, July 15, at Sac-Osage Hospital.

"I sincerely believe that the timing of these actions is critical. The old model of healthcare is just not sustainable in today’s’ healthcare reimbursement environment. Taking action now gives us an opportunity to define stable healthcare services that will meet the long term needs of this community," says M. Chris Smiley, Chief Executive Officer of SOH. "I want to thank all of my staff for the outstanding work they have done throughout the years, but especially for their steadfast dedication to this hospital and the community during this transition."

“Our vision for this location is to offer a new model of care that is built on the residents’ needs,” says Babb. “We are committed to providing quality healthcare services with advanced technology and access to a variety of services.”
Initially, CMH will utilize the Tri-County Clinic building to offer a Family Medicine practice and a Walk-In Clinic that is open seven days-a-week from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.

The facility will also include telehealth services, outpatient lab, imaging (including X-ray and ultrasound), and rehabilitation (physical, occupational and speech therapy). A retail pharmacy will also be included in the building.

“When services grow, our vision is to build a large new facility that will accommodate added service offerings and additional space for medical providers,” says Babb. “We look forward to working with community members as we develop innovative solutions to meet the health needs of Osceola and surrounding communities.

As part of the affiliation agreement, CMH will also assume SOH ambulance service operations including maintaining base operations in Osceola. CMH also plans to purchase an additional ambulance to add to the two-ambulance fleet already in service.

CMH will be meeting with SOH employees to develop a plan for staffing needs for the clinic and ambulance service in Osceola. SOH employees will have an opportunity to apply for open positions in the CMH system.

A public meeting will be jointly hosted by CMH and SOH on Tuesday, July 29 at 5:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church, Osceola, to discuss the details of the cooperative affiliation between CMH and SOH and how it will impact healthcare in Osceola and the region. The church is located at 505 Walnut St., Osceola.

About SOH
Sac-Osage Hospital, Osceola, offers inpatient, outpatient and emergency services, and operates two rural health clinics, Tri-County Clinic in Osceola, and Lake Area Primary Care in Wheatland. Named for two rivers, Sac River and Osage River, SOH district includes 11 townships in St. Clair County. The mission is to strengthen the health of our community by providing accessible, compassionate and affordable healthcare to those we serve.