St. Margaret’s apologizes to employees for how it handled Peru hospital closure announcement

Hospital says announcement was not delivered ‘in the best way possible’

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

Less than 48 hours before Peru’s hospital is scheduled to close, St. Margaret’s Health issued an apology Thursday afternoon to its employees and the community for how it handled announcing the closure.

The hospital is scheduled to close 7 a.m. Saturday.

The closure will include all acute hospital services in Peru, emergency room, ICU, Med-Surg/Peds, obstetrics, all surgeries, lab, X-ray and other outpatient hospital services.

In St. Margaret’s announcement, which also was shared on their social media, the hospital said it did not deliver its news “in the best way possible.” The announcement was made at about 5 p.m. Friday, with a letter issued to employees, about the same time as news agencies received confirmation of the closure. The announcement came after word of the possible closure had spread around the community and on social media. Lawmakers and state agencies both said they were not notified of the closure, with the Illinois Department of Public Health saying it was not informed until Monday afternoon.

“It was never our intent to blindside any of our employees or the community with such a sensitive and life-impacting announcement,” St. Margaret’s posted Thursday. “As we move forward, we are working to improve our communication (to both our internal employees and the community alike).”

St. Margaret’s said the true essence of its hospital is its employees and the citizens it serves. In last week’s closure announcement, hospital officials said St. Margaret’s-Peru hospital employees should go to the job board and apply for open, posted positions. A number of other hospital chains have scheduled, or conducted, job fairs in the La Salle-Peru area in the wake of the announcement. CGH of Sterling hosted a job fair Thursday, KSB of Dixon will host one 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Auditorium Ballroom in La Salle, and OSF of Ottawa, Princeton, Mendota and Pontiac is conducting one Jan. 30 and Feb. 13 at the Grand Bear in Utica.

“They are the most important assets we have, and without them, we cannot achieve our mission,” St. Margaret’s posted. “As such, we would like to apologize to our employees and the community for not delivering our announcement in the best way possible.”

St. Margaret’s said in its announcement primary and speciality clinics, as well as physical therapy services at the Illinois Valley YMCA will not be affected.

Effective Thursday, area EMS agencies will begin taking critical or life-threatening patients to the nearest emergency room, which in a number of cases will be St. Margaret’s hospital in Spring Valley. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you have a medical emergency, the hospital said.

“This outcome was never a part of our plan or goal when deciding to merge with former Illinois Valley Community Hospital,” St. Margaret’s said in its post, having said just last fall plans to discontinue Spring Valley’s ER were put on-hold to gain REH status to keep both facilities open.

“Together, we had shared a vision for more efficient delivery of high quality healthcare in the region and an opportunity to combine resources to enhance the services provided. Despite our efforts to consolidate and streamline services to encourage a stronger financial position, factors beyond our control have brought about many unforeseen fiscal hardships.”

St. Margaret’s officials have said they would like to reopen the Peru hospital, calling the closure a “temporary suspension,” but the earliest that may happen is two to three months, utilizing a Rural Emergency Hospital designation. To do so, however, the hospital will have to reopen prior to receiving the designation.

“The REH designation (which was recently established by the federal government to address the growing concern over closures of rural hospitals nationally) seemed like a promising new opportunity to keep both our hospitals open,” the hospital said in its post.

Hospital officials have said its provider of emergency room physician coverage in Peru terminated its contract, effective Saturday, and the Peru hospital was not able to find, nor financially support, a new ER provider. Recruitment efforts also fell short of meeting the demand, the hospital said.

Hospitals cannot operate without an open and fully-staffed emergency room, IDPH said.

Notice of a public rally scheduled 6:45 a.m. Saturday near the entrance of the former Illinois Valley Community Hospital, 925 West St., has been circulating for community members to speak out against the hospital’s closure.