OB-GYN services unlikely to return to Peru hospital even if facility reopens, mayor says

Mayor Ken Kolowski says he’s concerned about elimination of women’s healthcare

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

OB-GYN services likely will not return to St. Margaret’s hospital in Peru, even if the hospital decides to reopen after announcing its Jan. 28 closure, the city’s mayor said Monday after meeting with hospital officials.

Peru Mayor Ken Kolowski said he met with hospital CEO and President Tim Muntz, as well as state lawmakers Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and state Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa. Kolowski said the hospital apologized during the meeting for how the announcement was made, coming late on a Friday afternoon.

Alternatives to OB-GYN services are in discussion, said Linda Burt, vice president of quality and community services at St. Margaret’s.

St. Margaret’s management said Friday their hope is to reopen the Peru hospital as a rural emergency hospital, a designation that opens the hospital chain to outside funds. Even if that process comes to fruition, however, an obstetrics unit is not likely to return, Kolowski said he learned Monday.

“SMH representatives made it clear that obstetrical services were unlikely to be offered at either Peru or Spring Valley going forward,” Kolowski said. “ ... We are extremely concerned about the elimination of obstetric and women’s health services in the Illinois Valley area, providing little notice to expecting mothers and leaving few options moving forward.”

In a Friday letter to employees, St. Margaret’s management said the obstetrics unit was closing Jan. 28, along with the Peru hospital. Arrangements will be made for obstetrics deliveries to be provided at hospitals in Ottawa, Pontiac and Morris, officials said in the notice.

Muntz said Friday the hospital’s finances steadily worsened following COVID-19, the resulting staff shortages and a February 2021 cyberattack. The contractor that provides emergency room staffing, which hospital officials declined to name, advised ER services would be halted. Without ER services, a hospital cannot remain in operation, according to state law.

Peru city officials said the hospital reiterated that sentiment during Monday’s meeting, citing financial distress as the reason for the suspension.

La Salle Mayor Jeff Grove said he’s concerned about the healthcare services in the area going downhill, the impact on local jobs and how the closure will affect the region’s future.

“We want families to move to La Salle, and if they want to start a family, there’s no hospital here to have their babies,” Grove said. “People look at that stuff, it’s an important part of economic development and it depletes your whole community when a hospital isn’t here, so I hope something will get figured out.”

Grove said he’s been listening to resident concerns and will be in touch with local communities to see what can be done to help.

Kolowski said the city will stay in communications with the hospital and elected officials moving forward in an effort to ensure the community has adequate healthcare. The St. Margaret’s hospital in Spring Valley, which is about 4 miles west of Peru, will remain open.

“The city has also requested information regarding SMH-Peru’s plan of action for the hundreds of talented healthcare workers that may be impacted by the decision,” Kolowski said.