“We are very disappointed we weren’t informed about this situation months ago so we could try and seek state aid or other help. This was a poor strategy at best, negligent at worst.”— State Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, on Peru hospital clsoure
A state lawmaker criticized St. Margaret’s Health on Friday and questioned how officials handled the 11th-hour notice of plans to close the Peru hospital followed the law.
State Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, also speculated whether the hospital could face fines for its actions.
“From researching (the) statute it appears SMH did not follow the law,” Yednock said in a Friday statement, “and if they close this week, then there could be fines to follow.”
When asked to elaborate, Yednock said he had spoken to a legislative liaison for the Illinois Department of Public Health who rattled off a list of notification and review requirements, including a public hearing, St. Margaret’s was supposed to have met.
A hospital statement in response to Yednock asserted officials had acted “in full compliance with state law.”
The IDPH said in a statement late Friday, at this stage, it is “focused on working with the hospital on their effort to convert to a Rural Emergency Hospital” in order to maintain access to area healthcare.
IDPH also added any potential fines would be levied by the Health Facilities and Services Review Board and it is “too early in this process to determine if that will occur in this case.”
Hospital officials announced late last Friday their plans to suspend operations at St. Margaret’s Health-Peru on Saturday. Lawmakers and state agencies both said they were not notified of the closure, with the IDPH saying it was not informed until Monday afternoon.
The fact that I have been recently informed that SMH did not formally apply for this closure until Jan. 25 speaks volumes about the lack of comprehensive planning.— State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris
Hospital officials initially said they were unsure whether the hospital would reopen, but have since said they believe eventually it will.
Nevertheless, hospital officials apologized to employees and the community for how it handled announcing the closure.
On Monday, Yednock said, nothing had been filed with IDPH. By Wednesday, filings seeking to suspend the Peru hospital (a process distinct from permanent closure) were on file. Nevertheless, a liaison told Yednock that St. Margaret’s should have filed the papers much sooner, the lawmaker said.
Yednock said he’s come to the conclusion St. Margaret’s had hoped shutting down the Peru facility would force the state to grant them Rural Emergency Hospital designation “in record speed.”
“However, I don’t think this was well thought out,” Yednock said. “Announcing a closure, then asking for help is a terrible strategy especially since legislators do not control the executive branch.”
“We are very disappointed we weren’t informed about this situation months ago so we could try and seek state aid or other help. This was a poor strategy at best, negligent at worst.”
Yednock’s counterpart in the Illinois Senate said she was “extremely disappointed” both with St. Margaret’s Health’s decision and its handling of the temporary closure for the Peru Hospital.
“It was our understanding that Senate Bill 1435, which would have designated St. Margaret’s Health-Peru as the first Rural Emergency Hospital in the nation, was everything that the SMH management needed from the state to ensure that the Peru Hospital would remain operational,” state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said.
“The lack of communication by SMH management and the speed in which they acted has been shocking to not only myself, but also the entire Illinois Valley community. The fact that I have been recently informed that SMH did not formally apply for this closure until Jan. 25 speaks volumes about the lack of comprehensive planning.”
Rezin concluded by calling on IDPH to determine whether they have the ability to require the Peru hospital remain open for the time being.
U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, also issued a statement Friday, adding she believes the closure “is a tragedy for the residents of Peru, La Salle, Oglesby and everyone who counts on St. Margaret’s Health-Peru for medical care.”
“Rural hospitals are essential to the health and long-term stability of our communities,” Underwood said. “I am already hearing about the devastating effects of this closure from my constituents.”
Concerns for Underwood included ambulances losing minutes of response time, women forced to travel more than an hour for care and nearby hospitals being overwhelmed with additional demand.
In a statement, St. Margaret’s said there is “a serious misunderstanding,” but also acknowledged hospital officials “should have shared more details of the financial situation which was driving our transition to a rural emergency hospital.”
While St. Margaret’s did not specifically address Yednock’s individual allegations, the statement indicated hospital officials acted “in full compliance with state law,” advising both the Illinois Health Facilities Services Review Board and the Illinois Department of Public Health of the decision to temporarily suspend operations at the Peru campus “due to unanticipated and unforeseen circumstances.”
“The hospital has been working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health in this process,” the statement read. “It is doing so in accordance with state law, as both the Department of Public Health and the hospital are trying to ensure continued availability of health care services to the community.”
St. Margaret’s hospital in Spring Valley will remain open.