Expectant moms in Illinois Valley look to Dixon and Sterling for care

Closure of Peru hospital prompts obstetrics patients to travel northwest

A billboard on Illinois Route 251 targets expected mothers from CGH Medical Center in Sterling on Friday, March 24, 2023 in Peru.

When the Peru hospital was closed, dozens of expectant women from La Salle and Bureau counties were advised to head east and south for obstetrical care.

About five dozen have turned west and northwest, instead. The Jan. 28 closing of St. Margaret’s Health-Peru reached the front offices at the Sterling and Dixon hospitals and officials there decided this was a time, and an opportunity, to act.

People are not going to drive 45 minutes to an hour to get basic care. We recognized there was an unmet need for obstetrics and we tried to accommodate them. We don’t have an expectation of pulling general medical patients.”

—  Paul Steinke, president and chief executive officer at CGH Medical Center

CGH Medical Center in Sterling and KSB Hospital in Dixon both promoted their services in the Illinois Valley area. CGH, in fact, erected a billboard in Peru on northbound Route 251 near Shooting Park Road – even though the Sterling hospital is about 60 miles away.

Dr. Paul Steinke is president and chief executive officer of CGH, which operates 17 outlying clinics serving 80,000 patients in five counties. Though CGH had no previous designs on scooping up patients from the Illinois Valley, the closing of Peru’s OB unit created an outreach opportunity – albeit just for obstetrics.

“People are not going to drive 45 minutes to an hour to get basic care,” Steinke said. “We recognized there was an unmet need for obstetrics and we tried to accommodate them. We don’t have an expectation of pulling general medical patients.”

CGH Medical Center in Sterling is slated to receive around 400 COVID-19 vaccine doses anticipated to come to Whiteside County next week for high risk health care workers.

Steinke said “17 or 18″ patients that have signed up with CGH providers, wooed in part by phone calls from its director of obstetrics and in-person tours of the facilities. Steinke emphasized the CGH clinic nearest to St. Margaret’s-Peru is in Walnut and there are no plans to provide anything closer.

“We welcome anyone from that area,” Steinke said. “We’re a small, independent community hospital and we think the best way to serve our patients is by remaining independent. We’re always reaching out to say, ‘How can we best serve our community?’

“We’re not trying to become a super corporate entity.”

Dixon likewise decided it was worth their time to market medical care, led by OB, outside their customary boundaries.

Kevin Marx, director of business development for KSB Hospital, said the campaign reeled in “30 to 40 OB/GYN patients,” which is a “significant” influx for KSB.

“The genesis of it all was when we became aware of displaced employees and patients and we reached out,” Marx said. “We wanted to make resources available to patients who were scrambling for medical care.”

Marx noted that KSB is not immune from the shortage of healthcare workers, which was worsened by the stress and resulting burnout brought on by the pandemic. Marx said the outreach resulted in “a handful of displaced workers” from La Salle and Bureau counties.

KSB Hospital in Dixon set up a welcome stand at its healthcare job fair Friday at the Auditorium Ballroom in downtown La Salle.

“The demand exceeds supply,” Marx said, “so once we learned one of the facilities was shutting down, we and everybody else in the industry saw an opportunity.”

Steinke and Mark both acknowledged that neither hospital would have marketed their services so far to the east – at least not until the pandemic – but both downplayed any notion that the current outreach portends an expansion.

“We don’t really consider Peru part of our market, this was just about responding to an unmet need,” Steinke said. “We have no intentions of opening a clinic in Peru. That’s not in our forecast.”

Marx said KSB draws patients from an area that roughly overlaps with St. Margaret’s reach, drawing patients from Amboy and Sublette, for example, but admits he didn’t foresee promoting patient services in La Salle-Peru.

“I would have thought your neighborhood was a little far away for us, say, five years ago,” he said, “but the pandemic took a lot out of us collectively and we’re all figuring out how to manage it.”

Have a Question about this article?
Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.