Iowa Co-ops Use Federal Loans to Help Hospital Handle Record Births

Iowa electric co-ops are steering federal loans to help Iowa Specialty Hospital with record births. From left: ISH’s Steve Simonin; Prairie Energy Co-op’s Todd Foss and Sarah Olson; ISH’s Cindy Hunter; Corn Belt Power Co-op’s Brittany Dickey and Stacy Cirks; and ISH’s Greg Polzin. (Photo By: Jordan Weber/Iowa Specialty Hospital)

As more rural health care systems close, one north-central Iowa hospital is experiencing an unprecedented baby boom, and local electric cooperatives have stepped in to help it finance a much-needed maternity center expansion.

Prairie Energy Cooperative in Clarion and power supplier Corn Belt Power Cooperative in Humboldt recently passed through $2.4 million in federal loans to Iowa Specialty Hospital to boost its maternity services. The money comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program, which provides zero-interest loans and grants for projects that create and retain jobs in rural areas. Eligible applicants are USDA’s Electric Program and Telecom Program borrowers.

The REDLG loans come as record numbers of births are straining the busy hospital, where five of 25 beds are dedicated for labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum care. In 2021, doctors delivered a record 568 babies, compared to 485 in 2020. And the hospital is projecting 600 births this year.

“We consistently fill these rooms and overflow into medical and surgery rooms daily,” said Jenn Mewes, Iowa Specialty Hospital’s OB leader, adding that doctors and nurses have been paying extra attention to “bed management” to keep pace with deliveries.

Throughout the state, 10 labor and delivery units have closed in the past three years.

“As birthing facilities continue to decrease, patients are more likely to have to drive for this care,” said Mewes, noting that in some cases, expectant families travel as far as 100 miles roundtrip.

The hospital’s expansion, estimated at $5.5 million, will include three additional maternity rooms and specialty clinic space at the facility. It’s all part of improving the lives of members, said Corn Belt Power Cooperative’s Brittany Dickey.

“Our members and staff use this hospital and it’s part of our community,” said Dickey, vice president of business development at the G&T.

Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.