Mercy opponents: Smaller hospital still not needed
Although Mercy Health System has presented a scaled-back plan to build a hospital in Crystal Lake with only 70 beds, the plan's detractors -- and there are many -- say that still is 70 beds too many.
Friday morning, Mercy executives and community supporters appeared at a hearing before the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board in Crystal Lake in which they argued their case for a hospital.
Wisconsin-based Mercy is seeking a certificate of need from the board that would allow it to build the $115 million facility at Route 31 and Three Oaks Road.
Fifty-six beds would be for medical/surgical patients, 10 beds would be for obstetrics patients and four would be reserved for the intensive care unit. It is identical to the plan Mercy presented in the early 2000s that the board subsequently denied.
Patients who require third-level care such as open-heart surgery and neurological surgery would be transferred to other hospitals.
In June, the board rejected a Mercy proposal to build a 128-bed hospital in the same location. Mercy officials responded with the 70-bed plan that they say will lessen the impact on rival hospitals and provide residents with care in their own backyards.
"We thought the size was more in line with the community needs," said Rich Gruber, Mercy's vice president of community advocacy. He added that the project would create 700 construction jobs and 1,000 hospital positions in the first year. Pointing to a 94-bed hospital plan the board approved this summer for Shiloh, a town of 13,000 people near St. Louis, Mercy felt the board should give the smaller plan a shot.
But opponents from Centegra Health System, which requested Friday's hearing, Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital near Lake Barrington and St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, say the smaller hospital still is unnecessary.
Some pointed out the state requirement that proposed hospitals in metropolitan areas offer at least 100 beds and that Mercy comes up 30 beds short.
"I'm concerned about the quality of care such a small hospital could provide," sad Roseanne Niese, director of emergency services at Good Shepherd.
They also argued that Mercy's hospital, if approved, would still cut into their patient and hiring pools, duplicate services, increase health care costs and force hospitals to abandon safety net services, like free screenings.
"Make no mistake," said Sherman Chief Financial Officer Eric Krueger. "We will all pay for this unneeded new hospital."
Centegra is trying to build a 128-bed hospital in Huntley and in June, the state also refused to issue it a certificate of need. Hospital officials have since resubmitted the same plan for approval.
Centegra argues that Mercy's proposed hospital in Crystal Lake would steal patients and resources from Centegra's existing hospitals in Woodstock and McHenry.
"There is a need for a new hospital in McHenry County, but that need is not Crystal Lake," Centegra Chief Executive Officer Michael Eesley said. "As of right now, there are zero hospitals in southern McHenry County. That is truly where the need is."
Even so, some residents who backed Mercy accused the rival hospitals of putting their own needs before those of McHenry County residents.
"They want you to protect their domain," Nancy Delaware of Crystal Lake told the board.
The board is expected to take a vote on the Centegra and Mercy plans at either its Dec. 6 or Dec. 7 meetings.