Peru police report says St. Margaret’s official asked police to remove recent protesters

Hospital official says they wanted police presence as a precaution

Hundreds of St. Margaret's employees gather outside outside St. Margarets Hospital (formally Illinois Valley Community Hospital) on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023 in Peru. Hospital officials announced late last Friday their plans to suspend operations at St. Margaret's Health in Peru.

A St. Margaret’s official asked police to remove community members and hospital staff who gathered for a recent rally as the Peru facility was closing last month, according to a police report.

The gathering took place on hospital property at 6:45 a.m. on Jan. 28 in response to St. Margaret’s hospital closure.

St. Margaret’s Director of Operations Mike Mathias called the Peru police just after 6:30 a.m. that day, according to the report obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Shaw Local News Network.

“Mike Mathias called advising that (he) wants everyone off of the hospital property,” the police report said. “Mathias advises that they were told they could be on the street. Mathias advises that this is coming from the hospital administration and the subjects outside are to be removed.”

Linda Burt, St. Margaret’s vice president of quality and community services, said Mathias denies asking people to be removed from the property. Mathias did not return a message for comment from Shaw Local News Network.

Burt acknowledges conversations earlier in the week with police about concerns for the hospital’s liability of people gathering there, but she said the hospital didn’t sign any formal complaint.

Peru Police Chief Sarah Raymond said she and her department maintain the accuracy of the police report.

“We stand by the documentation and the police report,” Raymond said.

Burt said St. Margaret’s had conversations with the police earlier in the week leading up to the closure about having an increased police presence at the rally. The police report also said St. Margaret’s officials were told the week leading up to it the Peru police would monitor the rally.

“We wanted police nearby just in case it didn’t remain peaceful,” Burt said. “But, fortunately, it was orderly.”

Police Lt. Douglas Bernabei monitored the rally in an unmarked car from 6 to 8 a.m. and filed the report, the record shows. According to the report, Bernabei spoke to Mathias at 6:40 a.m., when Mathias allegedly said his superiors directed him to tell people at the rally to vacate the property. Mathias allegedly said he was told that if they did not, he should call Peru police and ask to have them removed.

The report said Mathias asked people to leave, and when no one did, he asked the police to remove them. Bernabei told Mathias he would not take such action unless someone in the administration came to the scene to speak him, the report said. The police did not remove anyone from the hospital grounds and the rally remained peaceful, according to the report.

Bernabei said in the report removing people would be “counterproductive” and observed the people at the rally were “well-behaved” and “would likely cause no issues.”

Burt, the St. Margaret’s official, said Mathias denies asking people to leave and asking police to remove people. Burt said Mathias locked the hospital doors at 7 a.m. and did not speak to anyone other than the police earlier in the week.

“Mathias had concerns about liability for people on the hospital property,” Burt said. “He was told the Peru police department would be monitoring the situation. No complaint or formal order was filed by SMH.”

State Sen Sue Rezin, R-Morris, criticized St. Margaret’s administration over the police report’s contents.

“I am shocked and appalled by the fool-hearted and completely inconsiderate request by SMH administrators to have law enforcement officers remove peaceful individuals who came together to show moral and emotional support for hospital employees,” Rezin said. “You would have assumed after publicly apologizing to their employees about the handling of the temporary closure, the administrators would’ve known better than to callously call the police on them.”

State Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, said he’s disappointed in St. Margaret’s.

“To think the police are going to have to be involved is just another faux pas at best on their part,” Yednock said. “I’m disappointed to know they were concerned about disruption or violence.”

The report said people were off the property by 8 a.m. with no issues. It also said Raymond “agreed fully” with how the matter was handled.