State agency says Peru hospital issues will not be resolved within a week

Lawmakers, agency say they just learned of hospital’s situation

A view of the emergency department on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023 at St. Margaret's Health in Peru.

It is not likely the Peru hospital will be able to stay open, despite state officials’ willingness to work with them, an Illinois Department of Public Health spokesman said Monday afternoon.

The agency was not notified in advance of St. Margaret’s Health-Peru’s plans to suspend operations effective Saturday, Jan. 28, until learning Monday about the hospital’s plans to convert to a Rural Emergency Hospital, which opens the door for the hospital to receive additional funding.

“They made their suspension of operations announcement to their employees without formal written notification to IDPH of the decision or the future plan to convert to Rural Emergency Hospital status, a new Medicare classification, which refers to a facility that provides outpatient clinical services, not inpatient care,” said Mike Claffey, public information officer for the IDPH.

Typically, a hospital closure is made public and vetted through a months-long process with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Board, but St. Margaret’s closure is considered an emergency suspension. Hospital officials said the closure could be temporary if it is able to gain Rural Emergency Hospital status.

IDPH will work with St. Margaret’s to convert to a Rural Emergency Hospital “as quickly as possible,” Claffey said, “but this is not a process that can be completed within one week.”

St. Margaret’s has a conference call planned Tuesday regarding its Rural Emergency Hospital application status, “and we will be pursuing that immediately,” said Linda Burt, vice president of quality and community services at St. Margaret’s.

“They will have to complete the Medicare enrollment process to switch their status,” Claffey said. “In addition, they will be required to undergo a site visit from IDPH’s regulatory staff.”

IDPH officials were not the only ones not expecting St. Margaret’s closure announcement.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said in an interview Monday that the closure announcement caught her and other elected officials off guard as well.

Both Rezin and state Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, heard the news late Friday and were informed by both local media and hospital employees, they said in a joint press release issued Monday evening.

After learning of the closure, the two lawmakers said in the joint statement, they began contacting St. Margaret’s management team to request information and a briefing. Rezin and Yednock were on a conference call Monday with St. Margaret’s management team to learn of the hospital’s position and plan moving forward.

“In addition, we have requested that they be forthcoming with us, employees, and the community about any processes going forward,” Rezin and Yednock said in the joint statement. “It is our goal to help however we can to ensure that the people of the La Salle-Peru area have continued access to the best patient care possible.”

Rezin reiterated Monday what IDPH also said that the process to help the hospital through Springfield may not be a quick one.

“This situation is not going to be corrected in one week,” the senator said. “As I’m finding out what’s going on, this is going to be a longer pathway.”

Rezin had multiple meetings scheduled Monday with elected officials and hospital staff. She said she’s focused on getting key questions answered and working with the hospital moving forward.

“I am concerned, I want to make sure we have adequate health care right here as opposed to having to travel an hour for an OB-GYN appointment or to have your baby delivered,” Rezin said. “I’m also concerned about the employees.”

Rezin said one of her main concerns are the employees who have no direction since the hospital announced its rapid closure. She said they have many questions about healthcare, 401(k)s, unemployment and what to do next.

On Monday, Rezin said she asked the hospital to put a plan in place and start communicating with employees to answer their questions. The hospital agreed, and Rezin said she’d be following up to make sure as much information will be given to employees as possible.

“We hear you and we’re fighting to make sure we have adequate health care coverage in this area,” the senator said.

The St. Margaret’s hospital in Spring Valley plans to remain open.