'Medical Mile' to add women's health center

News-DemocratNovember 29, 2013 

AP GRAPHIC

— A women's health center will join other planned medical developments along Interstate 64 in the O'Fallon-Shiloh area.

Heartland Women's Healthcare will consolidate its existing practices in Belleville and O'Fallon and begin building a new practice at Parkway Sixty Four business park in Shiloh, adjacent to the Green Mount Crossing Shopping Center. Practice founder Dr. Michael Schifano said the new site offers the women's health center a prime location where future hospitals and other medical practices plan to develop.

"We want to be right where the hospitals are and we want to consolidate our current offices," Schifano said. "Just within that past year, we have recruited three physicians to this area. We now have basically one of the larger obstetric practices in the area."

Commercial developer Darwin Miles of Miles Properties in O'Fallon, who helped usher in the retail, restaurant, apartment and hotel development at Central Park Plaza in O'Fallon and adjacent Green Mount Crossing in Shiloh over the past decade, has also helped develop new hospitals and other medical developments along the interstate, which he has dubbed "The Medical Mile."

"It will attract other businesses, not just the ancillary medical businesses, but other businesses we desperately need to attract here because of the quality health care," Miles said. "When someone is coming in, they want to know that quality health care is here. We've put in a lot of the other amenities over the years with Dierbergs, the restaurants and Gold's Gym and the higher-end apartments."

Construction on the metro-east's second Memorial Hospital is already under way just east of the planned women's health center along I-64. The new $124 million, 94-bed, five-story Memorial Hospital Hospital-East is planned to open by July 2015.

Belleville's other hospital also has plans to build along the interstate. West of Memorial Hospital-East, St. Elizabeth's Hospital purchased 106 acres in neighboring O'Fallon in November 2011, but construction has yet to begin.

In a released statement by Melissa Sterling, regional director of communications for St. Elizabeth's parent company, Springfield-based Hospital Sisters Health Systems, Sterling said, "St. Elizabeth's and Hospital Sisters Health System leaders are taking time to make a comprehensive plan before we go forward on a future hospital location. St. Elizabeth's is a crucial part of the health care safety net in the metro-east, and we need to consider many factors when making our decision."

Earlier this month, the O'Fallon City Council voted to take the first step toward expanding North Green Mount Road, north of Frank Scott Parkway, to five lanes to accommodate a new O'Fallon campus for St. Elizabeth's Hospital. The city will spend $65,000 to study traffic patterns and propose the new road expansion.

Just east of where Heartland Women's Healthcare will be built, BJC Healthcare of St. Louis bought 111 acres in Shiloh to build Progress East, an affiliate of BJC HealthCare. The $21.6 million acquisition was completed in January 2008, but BJC Healthcare Vice President of Corporate and Public Communications June Fowler said the nonprofit health care organization has yet to announce any development plans.

Delmar Gardens owns a parcel of land just northeast of the interchange at the interstate and North Green Mount Road in O'Fallon. The St. Louis business wants to establish a nursing home there, but was denied a Certificate of Need from the state. Under Illinois law, nursing homes and hospitals must apply for and receive a Certificate of Need with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board before they can build a new medical building.

Howard Oppenheimer, executive vice president of the Delmar Gardens group, said the company was initially told that there was a need of nursing home services in O'Fallon. But by the time the company was prepared to request a hearing, the board said the opportunity to expand was no longer there. Oppenheimer also said the nursing homes' expansion plans in the metro-east remain in limbo.

"Since that period of time, it's my understanding that not much has changed there," Oppenheimer said. "And unfortunately, the Illinois situation, vis a vis payments for Medicaid recipients, has gone from bad to worse. People are waiting for extraordinarily long periods of time for payment and the amount of per diem reimbursal has become very difficult for people to make ends meet. It's not a good environment in Illinois right now."

Miles has long argued that this state regulatory board has only discouraged medical development. He said there is great opportunity for medical expansion in the metro-east.

"Hopefully, the state will understand the potential of the jobs," Miles said. "The medical industry is growing."

Schifano said he anticipates adding 10 new positions when the new Heartland Women's Healthcare opens in Shiloh as his practice expands its base. Heartland Women's Healthcare currently has 24 practitioners at 16 locations throughout Southern Illinois.

"We have attracted a strong caliber of physicians and are excited about the growth in the area and the new hospital," he said. "Just within that past year, we have recruited three physicians to this area. We now have basically one of the larger obstetrics practices in the area."

Said Miles, "The synergy is now coming together after years of the hospitals buying their land. With Memorial building now, that is allowing groups like Dr. Schifano to seriously consider being in this area and develop synergy."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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