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posted: 8/12/2011 5:46 AM

Mercy, Centegra to try again for hospitals in McHenry County

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  • A rendering of the same 128-bed hospital Centegra Health System hopes to build in Huntley.

      A rendering of the same 128-bed hospital Centegra Health System hopes to build in Huntley.

  • A rendering of a 70-bed hospital Mercy Health System hopes to build in Crystal Lake. Mercy previously wanted to construct a 128-bed facility, but the state rejected that plan in June.

      A rendering of a 70-bed hospital Mercy Health System hopes to build in Crystal Lake. Mercy previously wanted to construct a 128-bed facility, but the state rejected that plan in June.

 
 

Two health care providers whose plans to build 128-bed hospitals -- one in Huntley, the other in Crystal Lake -- may have been shot down by state regulators in June, but they're not giving up the fight.

Their tactics, though, are different this time.

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Mercy Health System has scaled back its plan from building a 128-bed hospital at Route 31 and Three Oaks Road in Crystal Lake to a 70-bed facility that officials say will save $84 million.

But state review board Administrator Courtney Avery said Mercy's new plan does not comply with the state standard that requires at least 100 medical/surgical beds in a new hospital.

Meanwhile, Centegra Health System is still pushing the same 128-bed, $233 million hospital for Huntley that it pushed for last time, but it has provided supplemental information at the state's request.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board recently rejected both of the hospital plans.

"Oftentimes, you might get an intent to deny ... a lot of times because the board wants some additional information," said Susan Milford, Centegra's senior vice president of strategic planning. "We're confident because we feel we've provided the answers to their questions."

Officials from both hospitals have since filed separate appeals they will present at one of the review board's two October meetings in Springfield. Representatives from at least three hospitals that have fought Mercy and Centegra every step of the way also will attend.

Mercy responded to the setback by drawing up a $115 million hospital with fewer beds, said Rich Gruber, Mercy's vice president of community advocacy.

A smaller hospital would more efficiently handle the area's medical needs, save money and reduce the impact on Mercy's competitors, Gruber said.

According to the application, 56 beds would be for medical/surgical patients, 10 beds would be for obstetric patients and four would be reserved for the intensive care unit.

The review board is due to consider the proposal Oct. 12.

"I'm hoping that they find my 70-bed hospital project attractive," Gruber said.

Even though Mercy's 70 beds wouldn't meet the state's minimum, Avery said, "that does not prohibit an applicant from submitting an application for fewer beds." Board members will review the proposal just as they would any other, she said.

What's different this time for Centegra is that its officials responded to specific questions the review board posed. The 55-page response dealt with the area's population estimates, how Centegra staffers would resolve health issues in the area, and a study three rival hospitals submitted that said the new hospital would be detrimental to their future, a report one Centegra official deemed "flawed."

"They're trying very hard to derail us and, therefore, denying the people of southern McHenry County and northern Kane County a full-service hospital that no doubt is needed," Milford said.

There are several hospitals within a half-hour's drive from both proposed new sites. Since the beginning, Sherman Hospital in Elgin, St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates and Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington have united to oppose both plans. They have argued the hospitals would duplicate services, pull from a limited pool of health professionals and compete with them for patients.

And they aren't about to take these latest developments lying down.

Because the Mercy project doesn't follow the state bed requirement and because Centegra's proposal hasn't changed, Sherman spokeswoman Christine Priester is confident the review board will find neither hospital is necessary.

"The board wasn't buying it the first time," Priester said. "They're certainly going to vote no again."

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