Westlake Medical Center Looks to Community to Keep Doors Open

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GRAVOIS MILLS - If you are in the Lake of the Ozarks area and become ill, there are a couple places you can go to seek medical attention. You can check in to the emergency room at St. Mary's Clinic in Lake Ozark, or for non-emergenices, you can visit the Westlake Medical Center in Gravois Mills.

But according to head physician Dr. Kenneth Derrington, visiting the Westlake Medical Center may not be an option for much longer. The Westlake Medical Center is in jeopardy of closing its doors due to a lack of federal reimbursements from the government.

Derrington says the future of the clinic relies heavily on Congressional action, and while the fiscal cliff may have been provided some sort of protection for the next 12 months, he says the center is still in jeopardy.

"A lot of our clients are Medicare patients, and elderly patients. So they are scared about what might happen if the center closes its doors," Derrington said.

But it's not just elderly patients that will lose access to care if Westlake Medical Center closes its doors.

"We are also one of the only medical centers between Osage Beach and Versailles, so if we close, there may not be a lot of options for those sick patients," Derrington said.

Dr. Kathleen Robbins, another physician at Westlake, announced she will leave the clinic March 1 to begin another job at St. Mary's Clinic in Lake Ozark. When KOMU asked the reason for the move, Derrington said it was due to financial instability.

Derrington said there were years when the center would have between three to four physicans on staff, but in recent years, the number has gone down due to financial instability and personal choices.

Office manager Becky LaRock said she is most worried about what will happen to employees should the center actually close. She said that the medical center is a not-for-profit center, and therefore does not receive any financial aids from nearby hospitals.

However, La Rock wants residents to know that the center is doing all it can to keep the doors open for the community and lake visitors.

"We just want everyone to know that we are working as best we can to keep the doors open, and we will still be here for the community all we can, no matter what," La Rock said.

When asked if Westlake had any plan in action should the center not raise enough money, Derrington said since he would be the only physician left in the practice, he would just retire due to old age, but "would not even want to think about that."

All donations for the center are being collected by the Community Foundation of the Lake. If you would like to donate to the Westlake Medical Center, click here.