Ottawa City Council, public not swayed from dislike of OSF’s plan

Shift in services to Peru hospital hub draws ire of citizens, council

Ottawa's Bill Murphy looks to start applause for the Ottawa City Council's efforts to retain all of the OSF St. Elizabeth healthcare services it now has.

The Ottawa City Council and roughly 250 citizens got the chance Wednesday to voice their opinion of OSF HealthCare’s plan for changes to medical care in their city.

After two hours, not many seemed swayed away from thinking the plan is “not in the best interest” of their community.

The OSF plan for Ottawa is to build a $126 million 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, OSF has said.

Primary and specialty care clinics such as cardiovascular care, general surgery and OB/GYN will continue to provide services in Ottawa.

However, it plans to make OSF Saint Elizabeth in Peru, which just reopened in April, the hub hospital because of its centralized location within the Interstate 80 corridor. The plan also moves a portion of obstetrics and intensive care services to Peru and reduces the number of available inpatient beds in Ottawa.

The Ottawa council last week tabled a resolution of opposition to the plan. The city’s resolution could be considered at the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board when that panel meets on June 13 to consider OSF’s future plans. The council may consider the resolution at its next meeting Tuesday, May 21.

Other communities also may weigh in. The La Salle City Council has voted in support of OSF’s plan, while the La Salle County Board tabled a resolution of opposition.

OSF Saint Elizabeth President Dawn Trompeter, CEO of OSF HealthCare’s Western Region August Querciagrossa, OSF Chief Operating Officer Dr. Mike Cruz and OSF Executive Vice President Sister Mikela Meidl represented the plan, offering explanations regarding the reduced number of beds and how the plan would have a greater effect on the communities west of La Salle-Peru, since OSF acquired and reopened the Peru hospital.

Some of their comments were met by jeers from the crowd.

While another 169 people watched the meeting via internet broadcast, virtually all of those who spoke agreed that the distance Ottawans would have to travel in the even of an emergency or catastrophic event was too far, especially when the current hospital is delivering nationally and professionally recognized quality care as is, referencing OSF Saint Elizabeth’s “A” grade from the Leapfrog Group.

Dr. David Mangold told the audience the plan erases the motto of the Community Hospital of Ottawa, which was purchased and made into OSF Saint Elizabeth in 2012, to provide “quality care close to home.”

Commissioner Tom Ganiere said he is not opposed to the new hospital, but that the current hospital has proven it can operate efficiently and affordably. He urged OSF to withdraw its plan and resubmit one that “fits the needs of Ottawa.”

Dr. Brian Rosborough, an Ottawa native who for eight years was the chief medical officer for OSF Saint Elizabeth, said he is “deeply saddened” to oppose the “misguided” plan, adding it would leave Ottawa with the fewest inpatient beds of any OSF facility in Illinois and make it one of the smallest inpatient hospitals in the state.

Commissioner Wayne Eichelkraut said that the plan would turn the Ottawa hospital into a “glorified urgent care” facility.

Mayor Robb Hasty pointed out Ottawa has the highest population and secondary population of any community in the corridor, and was the only one to gain in the last census. Therefore, he said, it would make more sense to put more beds where they were most needed.

“Does it make more sense to have six doctors travel to Ottawa, or to have 18,900 citizens of Ottawa drive to Peru?” the mayor asked.

Rosborough asked the OSF representatives if they would be willing to pause and reevaluate, and if they will not, would they consider selling Ottawa’s facility to another medical group.

Cruz said it would “definitely” pause to consider the public opposition, though a pause would delay the start of the new hospital’s development. He also acknowledged the plan was “definitely not” part of the negotiation with reopening the Peru facility.

Querciagrossa explained the outlook for rural hospitals is increasingly grim and that the current hospital serves 50 outpatients for every one inpatient, thus making more than the 12 proposed beds unnecessary.

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