State panel hears plea from Ottawa-area residents to maintain hospital services

OSF official says medical group ‘contemplating changes’ to the hundreds in attendance

John Armstrong points to OSF officials while giving a speaks to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board during a hearing on Thursday, June 13, 2024 at Central Intermediate School in Ottawa.

Following pleas Thursday from dozens of Ottawa-area residents, the future of health care in La Salle County now is in the hands of an Illinois review board.

Nearly 400 people turned out to Central Intermediate School on Thursday to take part in a public hearing conducted by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board regarding the building of a new hospital in Ottawa and the health care services it will offer.

A total of 53 people signed up and provided testimony to the board, the vast majority of those speaking against the proposed changes to the care offered in Ottawa and urging the board to deny OSF’s application.

A.J. Querciagrossa, CEO for OSF HealthCare’s Western Region, opened the meeting with a description of the new hospital, which will replace the current “obsolescent” building. The cost will be $110 million for the critical upgrades needed and $125 million for all other operational issues, Quercigrossa said.

Among other things, the new building would have 12 medical/surgical beds, 26 behavioral health beds, a larger emergency room with 10 bays, two trauma rooms and four EED bays.

He reiterated intensive care units and obstetrics services will be in Peru, but that “98% of the medical care in Ottawa will continue in Ottawa, including outpatient and EED services,” Querciagrossa said.

“The project has generated much interest, with the city and county holding public meetings in recent weeks,” he said, referencing resolutions made against OSF’s plans by the cities of Ottawa and Marseilles and the La Salle County Board. “Due to the feedback we’ve heard, OSF is contemplating changes, but this here today is our planned project … It is time to retire and replace this depleted and deteriorating hospital.

“The regional center health care model meets the collective needs of La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties. We look forward to the state’s review and approval of this project.”

The Citizens for Healthcare in Ottawa earlier this week filed a complaint with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission saying OSF HealthCare is a monopoly.

Its rebuttal included statistics about the current hospital, its successes and high rankings, its consistent profitability and how the proposed reduction in beds will make Ottawa the second smallest hospital with medical/surgical beds in the state.

Also mentioned were potential over-reliance on police, fire and EMS personnel for transfers to Peru. A number of commenters said OSF had vowed in 2012, when the partnership with the city was initiated, it would not change or reduce services.

For the most part, residents giving public comment told their own stories, of how they or loved ones were given quality care at OSF St. Elizabeth and stressed there’s no need to change it now.

On all fronts, Ottawa Mayor Robb Hasty was impressed with the passion the citizens displayed throughout the three-hour event.

“It’s great to see a turnout like we had here (Thursday),” Hasty said. “There is a process, procedures that have to be followed moving forward. However, I think (Thursday) was a movement in the right direction. Their voices were heard, their statements were well rewarded and they were all very articulate.

“People were very passionate about it. It’s hard not to be. It’s one of the most important things in life. There was a lot of information out in the community so the people know and understand what’s going on with their health care … I think that we have enough groundswell to move that dial to where it’s more equitable for all of La Salle County.”

On March 28, OSF HealthCare submitted to the HFSRB an application proposing a new hospital to be built across U.S. 6 from the current building. The proposal included moving some services, such as obstetrics and intensive care, to the newly purchased and re-opened Peru hospital.

The CHO filed a request for a public hearing to voice its opposition to the planned reduction of services.

According to the moderator, HFSRB program reviewer George Roate, the meeting is one of six to 12 the board reps will take part in each year. He explained all of the information gathered – including petitions, oral and written comments and a transcript created by a court reporter on-hand – will be scanned into PDF form and shared with all nine members of the board.

Another public hearing will be conducted by the staff of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, at Peru City Hall, 1901 Fourth St.

Public comment through mail and email will be accepted at the Springfield office through end of business on July 19, there will be a public hearing and the board will have a minimum of two weeks to review it and a report summarizing the OSF application. Contact the board at 217-782-3516 with any questions or go to

The board will have a public meeting Aug. 8 at the Bolingbrook Golf Club. It then will have input on a final report and recommendation to be released online that day.

“All of the information we receive for consideration will be available on our website,” Roate said. “Everything is there to see. Our website is a great repository for information for anyone interested in the process.”

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