La Salle County Board will wait to weigh in on OSF HealthCare’s plans in Ottawa

Resolution tabled on new Ottawa hospital

OSF HealthCare prevailed upon the La Salle County Board to not adopt a resolution opposing OSF's plans in Ottawa -- for now, anyway. Christopher Manson (left), OSF's vice president for government relations, asked a county committee Thursday, May 9, 2024, to tap the brakes. Chairman Don Jensen (right) was among those who voted to table the resolution.

Some La Salle County Board members aren’t happy about OSF HealthCare’s plans to tear down the Ottawa hospital, build a new facility and redistribute services, but they declined to pass a resolution Thursday in opposition.

For now, anyway.

The board was scheduled to vote on a resolution against OSF’s plans in Ottawa – an initiative launched Monday by the county’s Committee on Appointments and Legislation and Rules – but the board instead opted to tap the brakes.

The appointments committee held a special meeting just before the full board was seated, and members recommended tabling any resolution until OSF officials can hold a public hearing.

The committee motion to table the vote was unanimous, save for board member Tom Walsh, D-Ottawa.

“I think we ought to do it now and send a message that we’re serious about our concerns,” Walsh said. “Postponing it is just kicking the can down the road.”

The full board adopted the tabling recommendation without a vote but with one comment from the floor. Board member Ray Gatza, R-Dimmick, said it was OSF’s hospital and, in a free market, OSF can do with it whatever it wishes.

“I frown on us getting involved in private business,” Gatza said.

A representative from OSF prevailed upon the board not pressing ahead with the resolution.

Christopher Manson, OSF’s vice president for government relations, said there would be a public meeting – certainly by month’s end – to address the emerging concerns from city and county officials and from the public.

“We have nothing to hide,” Manson said. “I’m very proud of what we’re proposing. We’re fearful that there’s a lot of misinformation that’s out there circulating.”

He added later, “but to go ahead and have the county come out and oppose a brand-new, $125 million, state-of-the-art hospital to be built sends the wrong signal.”

Ottawa City Commissioner Tom Ganiere addressed the committee, acknowledging that the City Council agreed to forestall action until there could be a meeting with OSF officials.

“It is our goal, our hope, [that] OSF will hear those citizen comments and change their plans,” Ganiere said, noting that the City Council won’t table a resolution again.

Ganiere emphasized, however, that a meeting should have happened sooner.

“All this could have been avoided had OSF contacted the city ahead of time and said, ‘Hey, we’re looking to do this. Can we discuss it with you?’ like most developers do before they make any kind of public announcement,” Ganiere said. “But they chose not to.”

OSF HealthCare, which recently reopened the Peru hospital in April, will build a facility with a 26-bed inpatient behavioral health unit, 12 medical/surgical beds and a surgery suite, emergency services, diagnostic imaging and outpatient care services in Ottawa, according to its initial news release.

Because of its central location, OSF St. Elizabeth-Peru will serve as the hub hospital within the Interstate 80 corridor and support a full range of inpatient and outpatient services, the hospital said. This includes 45 medical/surgical beds, eight intensive care unit rooms, 11 obstetric rooms to support a regional birthing center, surgery and procedure rooms, emergency services, diagnostic imaging and outpatient care services.

Primary and specialty care clinics, including cardiovascular care, general surgery and OB/GYN, will continue to provide services in Ottawa. OSF said it is committed to growing and expanding cancer care through the Fox River Cancer Center as part of the continuum/network with the OSF Cancer Institute in Peoria and the Patricia D. Pepe Center for Cancer Care at OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford.

Ganiere has been critical of OSF’s plans, saying they reduce services in Ottawa and consolidate services regionally.

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