A citizens group petitioning to bring a medical clinic back to Ossian has obtained enough signatures to represent every man, woman and child in the community.
"That shows a huge commitment," said Winneshiek Medical Center Board Member Clark Goltz of Ossian at Wednesday's meeting of the WMC Board of Trustees.
The population of Ossian is 845, and the Ossian Crown Club garnered 850 total signatures.
A number of Ossian representatives were on hand at the meeting to make their case for WMC opening an outreach clinic in Ossian. The action came following the recent closure of the Gundersen Lutheran Clinic in Ossian, following the retirement of longtime physician Dr. Ignatius Greene.
Attending the meeting to represent the community of Ossian were Mayor Chuck Covell; Pam Buddenberg, co-president of the Ossian Crown Club and Ossian business owner; former WMC Board Member Karl Schroeder; Eileen Courtney, director of the Ossian Senior Hospice; Terry Linderbaum, business owner and member of the Ossian Crown Club; Janice Meyer, Ossian resident; Mike Meyer, Ossian City Council member; and Joe Kriener, vice president of Luana Savings Bank's Ossian branch.
The right thing
WMC Board Member Ben Wyatt opened the discussion by saying when he saw the article in Decorah Newspapers regarding the petition, he thought he should invite them for a discussion.
"We are owned by all the people in the county. It is the right thing to do," said Wyatt.
Buddenberg thanked the Board for accepting their petition.
"We are hoping you are able to get us a clinic in Ossian," she said.
Buddenberg explained the Ossian Crown Club consists of 50 or 60 civic-minded individuals who do a variety of things for the community, including Ossian Fest and a number of community service projects.
"We recently received an Iowa visioning grant. We're getting some ideas for beautification and getting businesses in our downtown. It's been pretty exciting for us," she said.
Schroeder said the town of Ossian is "very sad" it lost its clinic.
"They (Gundersen Lutheran) tell us there are financial reasons for it. I'm not sure I agree with that. The southern end of the county needs to be taken care of. This institution is the one to do it. It's taxpayer funded and they're taxpayers," said Schroeder.
Schroeder said in doing some research, he found Dr. Greene saw an average of 5,000 patients per year.
"That's over 20 a day. He was an extremely industrious man who worked hard. That's why his practice was successful and he was running in the black most of the time," he said.
Schroeder added there are a number of community organizations in Ossian that miss having a clinic.
"We have a professional day care, two schools, Reilly Construction and Farmers Union Co-op, which is a multi-million dollar ag business. We'd like to see you give this some serious thought."
Buddenberg added another client for the clinic is the Ossian Senior Hospice.
"They have 46 residents and 78 full- and part-time employees. They would utilize a clinic immediately," she said.
Courtney said the Hospice "enjoys a good reputation and a good census. We would love to partner with you. Since we lost the Gundersen Clinic, we are running blood over to Calmar. If we have an employee injury, there's no care right there. It's more of a hindrance. We would love to have a clinic back in town with a doctor there."
When Board Vice President Roger Huinker asked if there is a building available, Schroeder said there are a couple possibilities.
"One of the buildings is fully handicapped accessible and has two entrances and a lot of space," he said.
When Board Member Karl Jacobsen asked about access to WiFi and Internet, Kriener said his bank has excellent service through Ace Telephone, and Covell added Reilly Construction has high-speed Internet as well.
"The important thing is to get the conversation going," said Kriener.
"After hearing what you guys would need space-wise, if it's not that building, I think Ossian would try to help you figure that out."
WMC Chief Administrative Officer Gretchen Dahlen told the group "being invited is a great honor."
"We are humbled you guys even asked us to do this ... I also would like to say you don't always see communities take things into their own hands and really pull together with the leadership and resources you have ... It's really impressive," said Dahlen.
"We'll plan to connect with each other in the next few days and start getting something going."