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updated: 3/26/2013 11:59 AM

State board to decide need for new hospital in Lindenhurst

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  • Preliminary drawing of the $131 million Vista Medical Center proposed in Lindenhurst.

    Preliminary drawing of the $131 million Vista Medical Center proposed in Lindenhurst.
    Courtesy of Vista Health System


Whether there is a need for the proposed $131 million Vista Medical Center Lindenhurst will be determined this week by a state panel.

The application for a 132-bed hospital at Grand Avenue and Deep Lake Road is scheduled for action Wednesday by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board on the second of a two-day meeting in Bloomington.

The matter was to have been discussed in early February but Vista deferred for two months to provide more information for what it described as "peripheral" issues.

Building a hospital in Lindenhurst -- it would be the first in Lake County in nearly 40 years -- has strong support and opposition. How it will fare Wednesday is unknown, although a report compiled for the board says there is no need for more surgical or obstetric beds in Lake County.

Community Health Systems Inc., which owns Vista Medical Center East and Vista Medical Center West in Waukegan, says the goal of the proposed project is to provide better access to hospital services to residents in north central and northwestern Lake County, many of whom travel more than 30 minutes to the nearest hospital.

"While it is true many of the patients go to Vista East, Vista West and other hospitals that oppose Lindenhurst this is in many instances out of necessity as there are no other options," according to information submitted by Vista.

CHS would discontinue 108 medical surgical beds at Vista East. The five-story facility in Lindenhurst would include a trauma center, nursery and five operating rooms built around Vista's emergency center, which opened in July 2011. Vista officials say the heavy use of the center confirms the demand for health care in the area.

Opponents, including Advocate Health Care, which operates hospitals in Libertyville and Barrington, contend the new facility would draw patients from existing hospitals resulting in less revenue to support programs and develop new ones. Advocate estimated patient volume would drop 20 percent at Condell and could threaten specialty services.

Previous attempts by Vista, most recently in 2009, to build in Lindenhurst were unsuccessful.

"There was no need for a new hospital four years ago when this proposal was denied for the second time and there's even less need now," Scott Powder, Advocate's senior vice president of strategic planning, said in a previous proceeding.

According to a staff summary for the state review board, Vista successfully addressed 23 criteria but did not meet standards in three areas.

There already is an excess of surgical and obstetric beds in Lake County, according to a review of the application for the state board, and other hospitals are operating below target occupancy.

"It does not appear that the proposed facility will improve access as there are existing facilities within 45 minutes of the proposed hospital location," the report says.

According to the report, Vista's plan also would impact hospitals not hitting the target occupancy for surgical and obstetric beds. And, the cardiac catherization service proposed by Vista also would have a negative impact on existing services, according to the report.

At a public hearing in November, then-Lake County Board Chairman David Stolman said the county supported the plan as correcting an "imbalanced distribution of hospital beds" and bringing jobs.

In a March 6 letter to review board Chairman Dale Galassie, current county Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor said the county board has not taken a position on the proposal. Lawlor urged the state board to "take a data driven and analytical approach" in its evaluation.

CHS owns nine hospitals in Illinois and is the largest publicly-traded operator of hospitals in the U.S.

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