Residents pack hearing on $233 million Centegra hospital in Huntley
Hundreds of people either for or against the proposed Centegra Hospital-Huntley filled up a room and then some Wednesday at Huntley village hall for a state hearing on whether a new hospital will be allowed.
More than 150 people signed up to provide testimony to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, the body that will decide whether Centegra Health System can build its planned $233 million facility. Review board member Courtney Avery and General Counsel Frank Urso represented the board and had not yet decided whether they needed another day to complete the hearings.
Centegra submitted a certificate of need to the board in December to construct a 128-bed hospital featuring a nursery, an emergency department, a women's center and noninvasive cardiac services. The 360,000-square-foot hospital would share a campus with Centegra's existing immediate-care facility on Haligus Road, between Algonquin and Reed roads.
Officials say the hospital, which would be fully operational by 2017, would bring 800 construction jobs and 1,100 hospital jobs and infuse $152 million into the growing community. Huntley leaders also hope the new hospital will spur economic development in the fast-growing village.
U.S. Census figures released Tuesday show Huntley has grown 324 percent to 24,291 people since the 2000 Census when 5,730 people lived there. Centegra leaders say its Huntley location would be ideally situated to serve the area.
"Our plan to bring a hospital to southern McHenry County and northern Kane County was not designed overnight," Centegra CEO Michael Eesley said. "Five years ago, we identified a need in the southern portion of McHenry County -- that's when we purchased 110 acres of land for our health care campus in Huntley."
The Huntley village board, police department, fire protection district, the Huntley Chamber of Commerce and the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation back the project. So do State Sen. Pamela Althoff and State Rep. Mark Beaubien. Several Centegra employees also voiced support for the plan Wednesday.
The McHenry County Board on Tuesday night stopped short of supporting the hospital project, preferring to commend the concept instead.
But the plan has its share of critics, who say the proposed hospital duplicates current medical services, will siphon off staff, resources and patients from existing hospitals and that spending $233 million on a new hospital doesn't make sense in the current economy.
Although Hoffman Estates Village President William McLeod and State Rep. Fred Crespo (in a letter) spoke out against the plan, it was primarily leadership and doctors from Sherman Hospital in Elgin, St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington and Wisconsin-based Mercy Health System, which hopes to build a rival 128-bed hospital in Crystal Lake, that urged the board to reject the proposal.
A representative from Provena St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin did not testify at the hearing, but Steve Scogna, its president and CEO, issued a statement Wednesday that deemed the plan "fiscally questionable."
Sherman CEO Rick Floyd pointed out that the new hospital won't offer open-heart surgery or angioplasty. Eesley acknowledged those patients would need to go elsewhere, but said the Huntley hospital could add those services at some point in the future. "Make no mistake," Floyd said. "This proposed, limited-service hospital will not be able to help many in their critical time of need."
Sherman board member Audrey Reed, who is Puerto Rican, said she fears Centegra Hospital-Huntley would affect the strides she says Sherman has made in closing the health care gap among low-income, Hispanic residents in Elgin and Carpentersville. Sherman offers wellness programs, cancer screenings and health classes they use, she said, and fewer patients at Sherman could force the hospital could end those programs.
But Eesley, who said the Huntley hospital would continue to serve diverse patients, countered that Sherman "abandoned" that same population when it built its replacement hospital on the west side of Elgin -- much closer to Huntley. Sherman now operates an immediate-care facility in its old hospital on the east side of Elgin.
The review board will go over testimony and render a decision on May 10. To see whether it plans on holding another hearing, visit hfsrb.illinois.gov.