Time has run out for a state hospital that has served Missourians in several ways for more than a century. The Mount Vernon State Sanatorium opened in 1907 to take care of tuberculosis patients at a time when victims were isolated to prevent spread of the disease and treated with bed rest, fresh air, sunshine, and nutrition. Its function changed as new TB treatments were found. It became the State Chest Hospital for the treatment of all kinds of lung disorders took place. About 30 years ago it became a center for long-term treatment of head injuries and gained its present name, Missouri Rehabilitation Center.
The Center became the center of the national debate about the right of families to let someone in a persistent vegetative state die when Nancy Cruzan died there in December, 1990, eight years after a car crash had left her with irreversible brain damage.
The hospital has been part of the University of Missouri Health system since 1996. But Professional Services Director David Parker says budget uncertainty, low patient counts and the opening of other long-term care facilities make the old sanatorium expendable.
“At one time we were the only long-term care facility in Missouri and now there are several others in the state including two that are very close to us in Springfield and in Joplin…We also have a physical plant here …that is old and very large and it’s very expensive to upkeep,” he says.
The hospital has a 130-patient capacity but now has only 29 patients, down from 42 patients five years ago.
Discussions are starting with a Veterans Administration outpatient clinic that rents space to see what the VA wants to do. He says continued rental of 35,000 square feet of hospital space is one discussion issue.
More than 320 employees, 286 staff, a half-dozen doctors and 31 managers will lose their jobs on October 31. Parker says relocation and re-employment efforts are already starting.