Mercy makes case for Crystal Lake hospital

Updated 3/18/2011 8:54 PM

Employing hospital executives, patients and politicians, Mercy Health System on Friday made the case why Crystal Lake needs the $200 million 128-bed hospital it hopes to build on Route 31 and Three Oaks Road.

Opponents in the form of officials from area hospitals, politicians and consultants did their best to explain why another hospital is not necessary and urged the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board to reject Mercy's application for a certificate of need, which Mercy needs before it starts construction.


An attorney for Centegra Health System, which is seeking permission to build a hospital in Huntley, brought up Mercy's 2003 attempt to build a hospital in Crystal Lake that resulted in federal indictments. In the end the state board revoked Mercy's certificate of need for its proposed 70-bed facility -- after Centegra challenged it in court.

If approved, Mercy Crystal Lake Hospital and Medical Center would include a large multi-specialty physicians' clinic and hospital. Mercy submitted an application for a certificate of need to the state panel in December. Cary, Crystal Lake and the McHenry County Board have all endorsed Mercy's proposal.

Mercy leaders say the hospital would provide medical care to Crystal Lake's growing diverse and elderly population, bring about 800 new construction jobs, employ more than 1,000 people, drive down health care costs, help spur economic growth and open in 2014. The Centegra hospital, if approved, would open in 2017.

"Unlike Centegra's pending application, Mercy Health System has chosen to locate its hospital and medical center in Crystal Lake, which is the most densely populated area in McHenry County that suffers from excessive traffic congestion, which delays access to care," said Javon Bea, Mercy's president and CEO.

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Representatives from Sherman Hospital in Elgin, St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates and Advocate Good Shepherd in Barrington contend there isn't room for another hospital. They question whether spending $200 million is wise in this economy and fear Mercy would copy existing services and compete with them for the same patients and medical staff. They made the same points last month when they opposed Centegra's plan. Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley, an executive with Centegra, also opposes Mercy's plan.

The most stinging criticism came from Centegra.

Dan Lawler, a Centegra attorney, said the state panel should remember some of the people connected to Mercy's 2003 application were indicted on federal corruption charges -- Stuart Levine, the state health panel's then-vice president planned on receiving a $1.5 million kickback from Jacob Kiferbaum, which Mercy hired to build the hospital in 2003. Mercy leaders were never charged with any wrongdoing.

Mercy Vice President Rich Gruber said the hospital never knew about the corruption until law enforcement contacted them, that the hospital cooperated with the probe and that Centegra was trying to change the subject.

"The focus really needs to be on this case -- the proposal to build a hospital," Gruber said. "The events from the past aren't germane."

The state panel is due to rule on Mercy's and Centegra's applications May 10.


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