MU Health entered talks with SSM Health in August to purchase hospitals in Mexico and Jefferson City, two of the last Catholic health-care facilities in the region. While a final timeline is not yet set, Mayor Chris Miller views the potential sale as a natural progression of residential health care.

“I hate to see SSM leave, but it is probably a good thing for the citizens of Mexico,” Miller said. “(SSM) has been a great community partner.”

Miller said residents already travel to MU Health facilities in Columbia for specialized services that are not available at the Mexico SSM hospital.

SSM has put a lot of money and effort into the Mexico community and its facility, he said.

“We share SSM Health’s commitment to improve the health of our communities through exceptional clinical care and service and look forward to reaching an agreement that enables us to expand our presence in Jefferson City, Mexico and beyond,” said Jonathan Curtright, chief executive officer of MU Health Care, in an August news release.

The potential purchase also will allow the training of more medical professionals for the region, Curtright said.

Bishop Shawn McKnight said in August the potential sale is the end of a long chapter of Catholic hospitals within the region.

"I want to encourage those communities affected by this decision to know that the Diocese stands with them in writing the next chapter of Catholic health care for our communities,” McKnight said.

Miller said having MU Health as a purchaser of the hospital is a good thing.

“The people of Mexico are already used to when they need advanced services going to Columbia or going to the University Hospital, so it’s not out of — it’s already in the system somewhat,” he explained. “SSM doesn’t have all the doctors and specialists that are available in Columbia.”

The hospital attempted to transfer patients to specialists at its Jefferson City location, but many Mexico residents habitually turn toward Columbia for specialized care, Miller said.

The Audrain hospital will celebrate 100 years of service to the community Saturday from 1-4 p.m. at the hospital at 620 E. Monroe St. The festivities will kick off with remarks from community leaders, including Mayor Miller, Audrain County Presiding Commissioner Steve Hobbs and State Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane.

“This is a momentous occasion for our community,” said Donna Jacobs, president of SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital — Audrain, last month in a news release. “What began in 1918 as a vote to create the first county hospital in Missouri has resulted in 100 years of dedicated service to generations of families in this community.”

The celebration also will include displays of the hospital’s history and a video tribute, along with a commemorative coin giveaway, children’s games, cake and refreshments.