Residents vent on Peru hospital closure: ‘I might as well move’

Patients with ongoing care needs most dismayed by announcement

Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru is expecting its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccines to come in Wednesday. La Salle County was one of 50 counties in Illinois to receive the first shipments.

Emily Schaub of La Salle will be a mother this spring and for anyone thinking of giving her a gift, what she needs most is a place to give birth.

Schaub is 23 weeks along and was planning to deliver at St. Margaret’s Health-Peru, but the hospital is closing Saturday, Jan. 28, and one of the immediate consequences is expectant moms must travel to more distant hospitals to deliver.

“It seems absurd to me to have us go to Ottawa, Morris or Pontiac for delivery,” Schaub said, who meets with her doctor this coming week to discuss the best options. “This is my first and I’ve been told the first never comes quickly, but babies come when they want and not everyone is going to schedule a C-section.

“I’m nervous. I don’t know what this is going to mean for us. I’m glad I have some time to wait things out but I feel for the ladies due any day now.”

Illinois Valley residents fretted on social media over how to meet their health care needs and where to seek fallback options, now the hospital’s doors are closing with a week’s notice. Typically, hospital closures are a months long process as the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board conducts hearings and takes public comments, but that process was not utilized, as this case is deemed an emergency suspension of services.

As previously reported, years of mounting financial pressures will leave St. Margaret’s Health with no emergency room staff in Peru, effective next Saturday. Without an ER, the hospital cannot remain open and St. Margaret’s now is seeking to operate the Peru facility as a Rural Emergency Hospital. St. Margaret’s-Spring Valley will remain open.

The move will have sweeping consequences for hospital workers and patients but, with the announcement released near the close of business Friday, answers have been slow coming for patients and their families.

Marsha Piraino, of La Salle, has a loved one with rheumatoid arthritis. The accompanying pain is so bad there are times he cannot use his hands to lift a fork and knife.

Piraino had driven him to Peru for biologic infusions once every six weeks. Since the closure was announced, Piraino has 20 days until his next infusion to sort that out.

“It’s really important he stays on a schedule,” Piraino said. “My concern is if he can’t get his infusions here, are these other hospitals around here going to handle the influx of patients that are going to flood in?”

And if rival hospitals can’t step up to the plate, more drastic options are on the table.

“If I need to go out of this area for medical care, I might as well move.”

Luke Tomsha is executive director of the Perfectly Flawed Foundation, which provides services and support to individuals and families related to substance use, mental health and addiction, and he wonders how the closure will impact families struggling with addiction. Heroin and fentanyl use is prevalent in the region and the closure of an ER in Peru is bad news for overdose victims who, in many cases, face longer transfers to Spring Valley or Ottawa.

“I’m very sorry to hear of the closing,” Tomsha said. “Our area has always had limited resources for people who struggle with addiction.”

Tomsha reminded those families in need of help that Perfectly Flawed has weekly support groups at 6 p.m. Tuesdays. The services include access to overdose reversal drug naloxone for emergency aid. People can also contact the Illinois Helpline at 866-2FindHelp or 988 in crisis situations.