The former Illinois Valley Community Hospital will be closed next Saturday.
Operations at St. Margaret’s Health-Peru will be suspended at 7 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 28, and hospital officials are unsure when, or if, the Peru facility can be reopened. The hope is to reopen it as a rural emergency hospital, a designation that opens St. Margaret’s to outside funds, but that requires regulatory changes by Springfield.
“The sooner this happens, the sooner we can reopen Peru,” Joyce McCullough, a St. Margaret’s board member, said in a conference call. She added later, “This whole thing could go away in two weeks – could.”
St. Margaret’s officials said in a Friday conference call they were unable to provide emergency room services in Peru and, by law, a hospital cannot operate. The number of jobs affected is not known at this time, hospital officials said. The Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) requires employers to provide advanced notification of a plant closure or mass layoff, and the hospital has not filed for this notice.
St. Margaret’s CEO Tim Muntz said the hospital’s finances steadily worsened following COVID-19, the resulting staff shortages and a recent cyberattack. The contractor that provides emergency room staffing, which the hospital officials declined to name, advised ER services would be halted effective Jan. 28.
The hospital isn’t technically closed. To do that, a spokesman for the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board said St. Margaret’s would have to complete an application to discontinue services. That process also would include public meetings and agency review over the course of months.
The agency spokesman said, however, St. Margaret’s could temporarily suspend services without prior approval. It then must report back to the agency every 30 days.
The information about the hospital’s suspension was provided near the close of business Friday, by which time word already had spread rapidly among hospital staff that the emergency room, obstetrics unit and lab, among other services, would be moved offsite.
Hospital officials acknowledged the surprise announcement was only days in the making and that a decision was thrust upon them when the ER provider disclosed the termination of its services.
St. Margaret’s hospital in Spring Valley will remain open.
State Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, said he was informed Friday afternoon of the possibility of St. Margaret’s in Peru notifying employees of a closure. He started reaching out to state agencies.
“I have spoken with a member of management at St. Margaret’s and an employee to confirm the possibility,” Yednock said Friday. “The management team member explained the hospital systems problems and their hope to stay open in Peru and Spring Valley.
“What I can tell you is this is a fluid process and we will be working diligently to keep access to health care in our communities.”
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said the groundwork has been laid to let St. Margaret’s Peru open as a rural emergency hospital, but, if more help is needed, her phone lines are open.
“We have been working with the hospitals to pass legislation to help them stay open,” Rezin said. “We’d be happy to work with St. Margaret’s if there’s a need for more legislation.”