GPS sends more visitors to closed St. Margaret’s Hospital in Peru

Out-of-town visitors seek help at the Peru Fire Department

An aerial view of St. Margarets Hospital on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023 in Peru.

Out-of-town visitors in medical emergencies are using GPS to find the nearest hospital – but in Peru’s case, some arrived only to find it closed.

Peru Fire Chief Jeff King said Monday there were two incidents in the past 2½ weeks where travelers sought treatment at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Peru, which closed Jan. 28. After realizing it was closed, people went the Peru Fire Department for help.

“They looked it up on their phone and the closest hospital was Peru hospital,” King said during the City Council’s March 13 meeting. “They got to the hospital and it was closed.”

Google maps appears to be up-to-date as of Monday – as a search notes the Peru hospital is temporarily closed in red lettering – but Apple Maps still indicated the Peru hospital is open as of Monday, depending on how the user searches it.

The first time this happened, a couple staying at Grand Bear Resort at Starved Rock needed a hospital when their daughter was having an asthma attack, the fire chief said. They sought the nearest hospital in their GPS and it sent them to a shuttered St. Margaret’s.

As long as the hospital is shut down and the GPS isn’t changed, people are going to keep coming.

—  Fire Chief Jeff King

King said the couple rang the fire station’s doorbell for help at 5:15 a.m. March 11. Initial care was started at the station, and an ambulance transported them to the nearest hospital.

“I think we’re going to see more of this,” King said in the March 13 Council meeting.

King was right. More visitors came to the fire department seeking care March 21. Two travelers pulled off the interstate for the nearest hospital because one of them had chest pain, King said. The responders administered initial care before the ambulance arrived.

“As long as the hospital is shut down and the GPS isn’t changed, people are going to keep coming,” King said Monday.

The police department is working on getting the GPS changed, King said. Police Chief Sarah Raymond said Google is in charge of processing those requests, either by phone or email.

Raymond said officials have tried for the past two years to change the GPS address for the Peru Police Department because Google still directs people to Fourth Street instead of the new building on Peoria Street.

“You don’t know who to talk to (at Google), there’s nobody to really reach out and talk to,” King said.

With warmer weather and increased tourism at areas such as Starved Rock, King expects to see more people show up at their door if the GPS isn’t changed.

“I just hope, like everyone else, they get it straightened out and the hospital opens back up,” King said.

St. Margaret’s announced March 22 it has been meeting with a larger health system regarding a potential acquisition. No decision has been made and the name of the larger health system has not been released.

“It has not been forgotten, our team is working on it, we’re doing the best we can,” Kolowski said on March 13. “We’re getting informed. Hospitalization and women’s healthcare is very important to the region, and believe me, we’re doing everything we can.”