Ernst tours Trinity Muscatine

Source: Muscatine Journal

By Kevin Smith

MUSCATINE, Iowa — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, toured UnityPoint Health- Trinity Muscatine hospital Thursday as part of her 99 county tour of Iowa.

“What I like to do in each community is try to reach out — find areas that are really doing well or areas that we might be able to assist at the federal government level,” Ernst said in an interview following the tour.

Trinity CEO Jim Hayes and other staff members led Ernst on a tour lasting about 20 minutes, looking at the donor’s wall, emergency room, surgery area and pediatric care among other areas.

Ernst said she wanted to learn what challenges the Muscatine hospital, part of UnityPoint, is facing.

“A lot of points made focused heavily on mental health and some of the concerns there, and those are some of the concerns I have as well, so it was great to hear some of their examples and stories,” Ernst said.

Dennis Duke, president of the Robert Young Center for Community Mental Health, told the Journal in a separate interview that the average wait time for a new patient to see a metal health professional in Muscatine County is seven to 10 business days and the average wait time to see someone licensed to prescribe medicine for mental health issues is 45 business days.

“That is too long,” said Duke, who was not on the tour.

He said mental health providers are “scarce” nationwide.

“You’re dealing with a very finite resource,” Duke said.

The Robert Young Center is mental health care branch of UnityPoint. Duke said the center is working toward expanding services in the future, but for now the shortage remains.

“This is where we’re going to require a lot of partnership through local, state, as well as federal government, and we really do need to find a way to encourage more providers in the mental health area, making sure that we are addressing the needs of the populations,” Ernst said in the post-tour interview.

She said federal policies alone won’t help as each community has different needs.

Ernst also complimented Trinity Muscatine.

“You’ve got a great facility here,” she said.

Jim Hayes said in a separate interview after Ernst left that he appreciated her interest and that she seemed engaged in wanting to learn about Trinity.

“I really would like to give her a better understanding of some of the problems that we face, the challenges we face,” Jim Hayes told the Muscatine Journal. “We’re here to take care of our community first and foremost.”

He said that’s done despite struggles with things like payment and federal rules, and he likes when lawmakers can see the effects of their policies on the local level.

Ernst, a member of the National Guard, also made it a point to compliment Trinity on the number of veterans who work there.