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updated: 7/23/2014 12:13 AM

Northwest Community looks to add rehab facility

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Northwest Community Healthcare hopes to open a 17-bed rehabilitation facility at its Arlington Heights hospital, officials said.

The $3 million project would take up the entire third floor of the original building on the NCH campus, 800 W. Central Road.

The facility would include space for physical and occupational therapy and a dining area for patients recovering from strokes or other major medical events.

The project was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday in front of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board in Arlington Heights. More than 20 people spoke at the hearing, almost all in support of the project.

Michael Hartke, COO of Northwest Community Healthcare, said that each year NCH places more than 200 patients into rehab care after discharging them from the hospital. By sending these patients to other facilities, Hartke said, there is a gap in the care provided by Northwest Community, as well as problems with delays or communication in transferring patients.

"The proposed new unit will provide needed care for those patients," he said.

Several doctors and nurses from Northwest Community Hospital, as well as Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights and Centegra Hospital in Woodstock, said there is a need for additional rehab care in the area. They told stories of patient's families who were stressed by having to take their loved ones home before they were ready or moving them to an unfamiliar hospital.

Representatives of Alexian Brothers Health System and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago -- which has a partnership with Alexian -- spoke in opposition of the project. Alexian and RIC have a 72-bed rehab facility in Elk Grove Village.

Kelly Clancy, vice president of external affairs at Alexian Brothers, said the Alexian-RIC facility is only 12 minutes from Northwest Community Hospital, and since it is often not 100 percent full, an additional program in Arlington Heights would cause "an unnecessary duplication of services."

"There is no need for this project," Clancy said.

Barry Fleischer, a strategic planner at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, criticized Northwest Community Hospital's claim that there are not enough rehab beds in a 30-minute driving distance.

"Our experience demonstrates that people are willing to drive further for a high quality of care," Fleischer said.

Hartke said the need is so great that even with the addition of a rehab center on-site, Northwest Community will continue referring patients to Alexian Brothers and other facilities.

The state review board is tentatively scheduled to discuss and vote on the project at its Aug. 27 meeting in Normal. If the project is approved, officials expect the rehab center open in 2015.

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