State panel to hear from public June 13 on OSF plans in Ottawa

Health Facilities and Services Review Board to take public comment for consideration

OSF HealthCare plans to build a new inpatient hospital in Ottawa, the hospital chain announced Wednesday in a news release. The new hospital will be built across the street, south of East Norris Drive (U.S. 6), on a vacant 31-acre plot of OSF-owned land, OSF said in its release. The current OSF St. Elizabeth Medical Center was built in the early 1970s and is at the end of its useful life with infrastructure challenges necessitating this decision, the hospital said.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which is tasked with reviewing OSF HealthCare’s application for service changes in La Salle County, will conduct a public hearing 4 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at Central Intermediate School Ottawa.

OSF HealthCare submitted an application to the state panel March 28 proposing a new hospital be built in Ottawa directly across U.S. Route 6 from its current facility, which is in need of updating.

A month later, the Citizens for Healthcare in Ottawa filed a request with the HFSRB for a public hearing to voice its opinion of the plan. The plan also includes moving services such as obstetrics and intensive care to the recently reopened Peru hospital, which would be the new hub of OSF’s Interstate 80 corridor.

The hearing at the school, 711 E. McKinley Road, is open to the public to present written or oral comments about OSF’s application to the Illinois Health Facility and Services Review Board, ahead of its August consideration on the application.

The plan would reduce the number of medical/surgical beds in Ottawa from 54 to 12 as well as reduce the number of operating rooms from five to two.

“This is a poorly planned application,” said Colleen Burns of the Citizens for Healthcare in Ottawa. “[OSF] didn’t talk to city officials and they clearly didn’t look that close at the numbers.”

OSF has said its plan will serve the entire region and offer a higher level of care in La Salle County, adding that health care needs in rural communities continue to change. OSF has said it is committed to the region. It has said its studied data to find the right mix of inpatient and outpatient services.

Christopher Manson, OSF’s vice president for government relations, said Monday the new $125 million Ottawa facility will feature fewer inpatient services because outpatient procedures today dwarf inpatient procedures by a 50-to-1 ratio.

The Ottawa City Council had an official motion of opposition prepared on May 7, but tabled it until a public meeting could be held. When OSF did not amend its plan after hearing from the council and the large crowd May 15 at Central School, the council later approved a resolution of opposition unanimously on May 21.

The city of Marseilles passed a similar resolution of opposition in early June and the La Salle County Board passed its own resolution of opposition Monday. The La Salle City Council sent a letter of support for OSF to maintain services in Peru. CHO additionally filed a complaint with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice regarding OSF HealthCare’s plan to build a new Ottawa hospital and move medical services currently in Ottawa to Peru.

Burns said that having beds moved from Ottawa to Peru will leave the area ill-equipped, adding that the plan relies too heavily on taxpayer-supported police, fire and ambulance services.

“[The plan] actually does very little to stabilize the region, which is their whole narrative as to why they’re doing this,” Burns said.

The CHO is advocating for OSF to maintain an intensive care unit at the hospital in Ottawa and to maintain at least the number of beds that the average daily census of the surgical floor the census of 24 and/or the peak census of 36, as she had determined through the past year and the last five years of data.

Thursday’s hearing will allow the HFSRB to hear public comments and CHO to present both physical and digital petitions opposing the move.

The state panel is expected to issue its opinion on the OSF plan on Aug. 8 via the state board staff report, which will be published online.

Burns said she hopes the CHO has made it clear that it is in favor of a new hospital, but that “it just needs to be the right size for our community’s needs and not just a behavioral health facility.”

“The importance of people coming out to speak is a big part of the process,” she said. “Not only will OSF hear the impact on the speakers personally, but it becomes part of the record that is submitted to the state board members who are charged with reading the applications, public comments and evaluating whether they should vote yes or no on this proposal.”

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