A little history

New babies have been arriving at medical facilities in Webster City for generations. Residents from all over Hamilton County share fond recollections of children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren born at the Hamilton County Public Hospital or, more recently, Van Diest Medical Center.

Hamilton County Public Hospital was located at the corner of Ohio and Des Moines streets. The facility opened in 1931 and over the next 70 years was remodeled and expanded four times.

The third floor was home to the obstetrics department with its nursery and delivery room. Thousands of women walked those halls, visited that nursery and welcomed new little ones into their families.

As the needs of the community changed and the three-story building aged and deteriorated, the hospital’s board of trustees began to look to the future. They purchased 29 acres of land east of the Hamilton County Courthouse with an eye toward someday building a new hospital.

The project remained a dream until Bob and Mary Van Diest, local business owners and philanthropists, told the board of trustees in February 2008 that they would pledge $10 million toward construction of the new facility. The donation came with a couple of stipulations — the funds must go toward a new construction, not a remodel, and construction must begin within a year.

Ground was broken in December 2008.

The new state-of-the-art medical facility, named Van Diest Medical Center for its principal contributor, boasted a long list of services when it opened in September 2010. That list included many obstetric services, such as “family-centered birthing suites for labor, delivery and recovery with whirlpool tubs, ‘rooming in’ options for infants and mothers, surgical, OB/Gyn and midwife services, education programs including Lamaze, prenatal, breastfeeding and sibling classes, and nurses certified in neonatal resuscitation,” according to a special Daily Freeman-Journal supplement marking the opening of the facility.

As of Oct. 12, those services will be unavailable in Webster City.

“Shocked”

When Bob Van Diest learned of the discontinuation of obstetric services, he submitted the following letter to the editor entitled, “Dont’t have your baby in our hospital.”

To the editor:

I was shocked to see our local tax-supported hospital has adopted a policy to no longer deliver babies after October 12, 2018. I hope they will reconsider their decision. Our local hospital is owned by the citizens of Hamilton County. Every taxpayer in Hamilton County is taxed to support our local hospital. Delivering babies is a basic medical service. Most young couples have babies. Parents have the right to select the doctor of their choice and the hospital of their choice. Our community needs a local hospital that provides the basic services that Hamilton County taxpayers need and expect.

For our local hospital to collect taxes from ever taxpayer in the county and then to not provide baby delivery, “is taxation without services.” If someone in Hamilton County prefers to have their baby at our local hospital, our local tax-supported hospital should provide this service.

Our local hospital is over a $30 million community investment and for our hospital to say, don’t have your baby in our hospital is an insult to the taxpayers of Hamilton County. Why drive business out of the county when you should continue to provide this service locally? Our hospital needs to take another look at this decision and do so prior to October 12, 2018. Don’t have your baby in our hospital is NOT the answer. We have the newest and most modern hospital in this area.

Bob Van Diest

Webster City

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