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updated: 2/16/2010 11:09 AM

Lindenhurst may get new ER

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By Vincent Pierri

A second free-standing emergency center in Lake County could be up and running in Lindenhurst by the end of the year.

Officials at Waukegan-based Vista Health System say they will be applying to the Illinois Department of Public Health next month for permission to build the facility. Special legislation passed to extend Vista's license application deadline has just cleared both houses of the Illinois Legislature and is awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature, state Rep. JoAnn Osmond said.

"This is a huge win for the citizens of Northern Lake County," Osmond said in a statement. "This will give us a chance at a sorely needed emergency health care facility on the northern end of the county. "

If approved, the emergency center would be built as an addition to the Vista Surgery Center at 1050 Red Oak Lane in Lindenhurst, Vista CEO and President Barbara J. Martin said.

Lake Forest Hospital opened an emergency center in Grayslake in November.

Vista and rival Advocate Health Care tried for years to open full-service hospitals in Lindenhurst and Round Lake. Permission was denied by the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which repeatedly cited too many beds in Lake County as the reason for the denials.

Martin says the new emergency center is the next best thing.

"This will be helpful for the people in the western part of the county," Martin said. "We already have a full-service surgery center, physicians' offices and diagnostic labs at the site now. This addition will be very significant."

Area rescue workers welcome the chance to reduce the time it takes to get patients to the ER.

Antioch Rescue Squad Deputy Chief Brian DeKind said every minute makes a difference. He's enthusiastic about the possibility of having an emergency center close by.

"There's no doubt that having an emergency room closer to our community would benefit everyone," he said. "There is no down side to having an emergency room in Lindenhurst."

Details about the size and scope of the center are not yet available, as the project is still in the planning phases, said Vista spokeswoman Camille Browne.

The timeline for construction is relatively short because it will be an addition to the existing surgery facility.

"We are just adding, not building from the ground up," Martin said.

Martin said even if Vista opens the emergency facility, it doesn't rule out the possibility the company might take another crack at getting approved for a full-service hospital in Lindenhurst sometime in the future.

"We continue to evaluate that idea," Martin said.