August 9, 2012

Hospital Board Members Retire After More than 65 Years of Service

Joe McVeigh and Hollis Boyer combined for 65 years of service on the Board of Directors of the Scotland County Hospital District.

As the Scotland County Hospital undergoes the most significant upgrade in the facility's history, the local healthcare provider bids farewell to more than 65 years of service on the board of directors. Long-time representatives Hollis Boyer and Joe McVeigh announced their retirements earlier this year, taking with them more than 65 years of combined service to the hospital opening the door for a new era for the health care provider.

Boyer, the long-time board president, was the lone remaining board member from the hospital's original directors that governed when the facility officially first opened its doors on July 20, 1970. He retired this past winter, and the board appointed his son, Charlie to fill the vacancy.

McVeigh joined the board of directors in 1986, and most recently serving as board president before retiring in March of 2012. Barb Blomme was appointed by the board to fill his position.

The two men's beginnings were a contrast in the facility's history.

Boyer was part of the grassroots movement that helped bring the concept of a local hospital to fruition for the people of Scotland County. He, along with original board members Glen Myers, Clare Morgan, Leon Cowell, Paul Drummond and P.C. Hinds, rode the tidal wave of public support that helped build the original facility.

"I got involved with starting a hospital back in 1967 after my mother passed away," Boyer stated.

After his mother suffered a stroke, Boyer found the limited local health care options were a problem for his family, as well as many others in Scotland County.

"There was a lady that turned an old house into a sort of nursing home to take care of folks," Boyer said. They did the best they could, but after mom passed away, I thought that there had to be something better than this, and that's how we got started."

Initially the concept was to build a nursing home, but after several trips to Jefferson City to review options for funding, the idea was born to create both a care center and a hospital.

Within a few years, supporters had raised enough money to fund the $80,000 portion of the local match for construction costs. The project was primarily funded by a tax bond issue passed by local voters. The newly formed district also received $389,980 in federal funding under the Hill-Burton Act, 1946 legislation that provided grants and low-interest loans in an effort to meet national averages of 4.5 hospital beds available for every 1,000 population.

"It doesn't seem possible in a day when we're spending millions of dollars to add on to it, but of course that was back in 1970 when it was built and a dollar went a lot further, back then," Boyer said.

The former board president said the initial years were fairly easy sailing for the new hospital, with the major obstacle being doctor recruitment and retention.

"That held up our progress at different times early on," Boyer stated. "It was hard to find doctors that were willing to come to rural Missouri, and then when we did find good ones, it seemed like we always had to fend off the big city hospitals who could offer more money."

A doctor shortage was one of the factors that led the board to agree to lease the facility to Blessing Hospital in Quincy, IL, in 1985. That agreement ended three years later with the hospital in dire straits.

It was about that time that McVeigh was elected as a write-in candidate for the board. Some 15 years after Boyer helped start the hospital, McVeigh got his start as part of the movement to help keep the hospital from closing its doors.

"When I went on the board, the hospital was being leased by Blessing Hospital in Quincy, IL," McVeigh stated. "They took over running the hospital and they lost their shirt on the deal. They lost so much they were getting ready to close us down."

The newest board member came in on a mission to keep the facility open.

"We worked to organize an election to pass a bond issue to help finance the hospital," McVeigh said. "We got the employees organized and out in the community trying to educate folks about how important the hospital was and why we had to have the tax money."

Those efforts paid off, as the voters of Scotland County approved a $0.50 per $100 of assessed valuation tax levy, which is still in effect today. That levy generates approximately $300,000 a year annually to help finance the hospital.

"We got it passed," McVeigh said. "Otherwise we wouldn't have the hospital we have today. It would have been long gone back in the late 80s."

The other key to reviving the hospital occurred at the same time according to McVeigh.

That's when the board recruited Marcia Dial to take over as the hospital administrator.

"Marcia was the head bookkeeper at that time," Boyer said. "She told us there were a lot of areas the hospital was expending money and not seeing any returns. We turned to her to help right the ship financially, and she has been the administrator ever since."

"She has been the key to keeping this thing going." McVeigh said of the hospital's improbable success story during times when similar rural facilities were struggling. "She has maintained the foresight and understanding of what it takes to make this hospital work, and more importantly she has done it."

Over the next 25 years, the hospital undertook four major expansion projects, culminating with the current $10 million expansion and renovation project.

In 1995, the outpatient area was expanded along with the creation of a new ambulance garage. Three years later, the medical clinics building was constructed. In 2005, a $1.3 million grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health helped fund the construction of the $2.3 million new Women's Center.

The current expansion and renovation project began in 2010. The Admissions/Registration Area, Emergency Department, and Inpatient Rooms opened in December 2011, while The Surgery Center welcomed its first patients in January 2012.

"It's come a long way since I started. When I go out there today I get lost, it has changed so much," McVeigh joked.

"I'm sure glad we got it going, and that it is still going," Boyer said of the Hospital. "We need it now, more than ever."

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