Peru hospital closing could last less than a year, St. Margaret’s officials may seek OB reopening in Spring Valley

Hospital told health officials in filing OB could be restored

A worker removes a hospital bed from the former St. Margarets Hospital (IVCH) building on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023 in Peru.

St. Margaret’s Health told state health officials the Peru hospital could be suspended no more than a year and returning a maternity unit to the area was a possibility.

Those statements were in a letter signed by Tim Muntz, president and CEO of St. Margaret’s, dated Jan. 25 – three days before the former Illinois Valley Community Hospital closed – and which was obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

In it, Muntz told both the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Health Facilities & Services Review Board it was necessary to close the Peru hospital in light of the severance of emergency room services but also a shrinking daily census that “simply will not support the continued operation of the hospital as an inpatient facility.” The average daily census was 3.4 patients, there were 148 surgical cases scheduled through April 17 and the daily average of emergency patients was 33, Muntz said in the letter.

But Muntz also left some hope the Peru facility wouldn’t necessarily be closed long and obstetrics services could be restored to the area.

“We do not anticipate the suspension of facility operations will exceed one year,” he wrote, “and our goal is to reopen the facility as a Rural Emergency Hospital in the next several months.”

As for an OB unit, Muntz said in the letter St. Margaret’s “will consider filing a certificate of need to establish an obstetrics service. However, St. Margaret’s-Spring Valley will need to assess how it may financially and resource-wise best serve the community.”

Friday, a hospital spokeswoman issued a statement tempering any such hopes.

With respect to how long Peru would remain closed, Linda Burt, vice president of quality and community services, said converting to a Rural Emergency Hospital “is new to everyone” – including, she said, state agencies – “we do not know how long the process will take.”

“The rule-making for (rural emergency hospitals) has not been completed yet and we were initially told it could take two to six months,” Burt said. “Then the application must be approved by IDPH and CMS (Central Management Services) to allow for licensure to be completed.”

The Rural Emergency Hospital designation opens St. Margaret’s to outside funds, but also likely means patients will not be admitted or spend any nights at the hospital.

As for obstetrics, Burt said, “SMH-Peru had to temporarily suspend OB along with all other inpatient services as of Jan. 28 due to state law requiring a hospital to have Emergency Room Services, including OB which is an inpatient service. SMH board had not made a decision at that time to do so permanently.”

St. Margaret’s officials had said previously running an obstetrics unit resulted in a financial loss of about $3 million a year, with a loss of $5,000 for every baby delivered. St. Margaret’s in Peru had delivered two to three babies per day and had 55 women due in January alone. Those expecting mothers were told to seek obstetrics care in Ottawa, or Morris.

In Muntz’s letter, he also said the hospital will give the Health Facilities and Review Board and the IDPH a a progress report on a monthly basis.