Mercy and Perry County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees have finalized a lease agreement for Mercy to operate and manage the county-owned Perry County Memorial Hospital (PCMH) in Perryville, Missouri, with the approval of the Perry County Commission. Integration of the hospital and Perry County Health System (PCHS) is expected to take place this fall.
“It is extremely challenging to operate small, independent rural hospitals. We see hospitals similar to ours closing across the state and the country,” said Chris Wibbenmeyer, CEO of PCHS. “Our county commissioners and board of trustees had the vision and the courage to act now to preserve the vital community service we’re providing.”
The initial lease is for eight years with an option to renew for another six years. That will be followed by a second option to renew for an additional six years for a total length of up to 20 years. This will be the 17th critical access hospital that Mercy operates across several states as the owner or through a lease agreement.
“We know being able to provide health care to our residents in their own community for the long term requires sustainability through growth,” said Greg Unger, chair of the Perry County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees. “Partnering with a strong, fully integrated health care system like Mercy allows us to take advantage of their economies of scale, their ability to recruit physicians, nurses and other co-workers, and their technology, including electronic medical records.”
The PCMH Board of Trustees negotiated the lease agreement and voted 4-1 to approve it. The board-approved lease agreement was presented to the Perry County Commission for their approval. After seeking the advice of legal counsel, the commission unanimously approved the agreement.
“Mercy is honored to be chosen to serve Perry County,” said Eric Ammons, president of Mercy Hospital Jefferson. “Over the last 15-plus months, PCMH trustees and leaders from the hospital, county and community have been thorough in analyzing Mercy, ensuring they made the right choice not only when it comes to providing high quality, lower cost health care, but in making sure whoever they invited into their community was the right cultural fit as well. These decisions aren’t for the faint of heart.”
Mercy intends to retain all current PCHS employees, who will become Mercy co-workers, an important stabilizing factor given the staffing challenges facing many industries including health care. Physicians employed by PCHS will be invited to join Mercy Clinic. Additionally, Mercy and the PCMH Board of Trustees agreed all co-workers who remain in good standing will maintain their positions for a minimum of 18 months.
The integration process will include installing a new electronic health record system through Epic. This state-of-the-art system provides one medical record available to all Mercy’s health care providers. It also offers patients online appointment scheduling, access to their records, contact with their physicians, online bill payment and more through the MyMercy patient portal and the MyMercy app. The addition of Epic is a $6.5 million investment in Perry County by Mercy, with further investments to follow.
“In accepting the invitation to join in serving the Perry County community, we wish to begin by listening to how we can best serve the residents,” Ammons said. “We will do so by conducting community roundtable events in the near future. What we learn will help frame how we can best meet the needs of the community and enhance the services offered.”
Mercy has a proven history of improving quality everywhere it serves patients. Eleven years ago, Mercy purchased Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Festus, Missouri. Over the last decade, the hospital, now known as Mercy Hospital Jefferson, has raised its CMS star rating from one star to four stars, earned a Leapfrog A Safety Grade in 11 of the last 12 grading periods over the last six years, and been named a Leapfrog Top Hospital the last two years, placing Mercy Jefferson among the top 5% of all U.S. hospitals in quality and safety.
“Mercy’s track record of operating critical assess hospitals and providing high quality care is exactly what we’re looking for in Perry County,” Wibbenmeyer said. “There’s also Mercy’s virtual care services which will increase patient care options. And, they have a unique collaboration with Mayo Clinic to improve early diagnosis and treatment of diseases. These are some of the many reasons we’re looking forward to a long relationship benefiting everyone in our community.”