Memorial: St. E's move could hurt 'underserved' residents

News-DemocratJune 26, 2014 

Memorial Hospital says St. Elizabeth's Hospital wants to "abandon downtown Belleville" by moving to O'Fallon, and it could limit access to healthcare for people who are "medically underserved."

Memorial, which has its main campus in Belleville and is constructing another hospital in Shiloh, reacted to news that St. Elizabeth's plans to close its Belleville building after building a replacement hospital in O'Fallon.

"We perceive this to be part of St. Elizabeth's systematic strategy to abandon downtown Belleville," said Anne Thomure, spokeswoman for Memorial Hospital. "Last fall, St. Elizabeth's was granted permission to discontinue its psychiatric services in Belleville."

"We are concerned about the significant impact of this plan on access to healthcare services for Belleville residents, especially those who are medically underserved."

Maryann Reese, St. Elizabeth's president and chief executive officer, said in response: "This project is about caring for the whole region, and the replacement hospital is only seven miles away from here. St. Elizabeth's is not leaving Belleville and there will be healthcare services provided at our St. Elizabeth's Health Center-Belleville."

On Wednesday, St. Elizabeth's announced plans to build a replacement hospital and medical office building on 114 acres of land in O'Fallon. The $300 million, 144-bed hospital will be located north of Interstate 64 and west of Green Mount Road.

Reese said St. Elizabeth's move won't hurt anyone's access to healthcare.

"We're actually expanding our mission to more people. St. Elizabeth's is committed to serving residents of the metro-east region."

St. Elizabeth's conducted a study on drive times and found that "the drive times to our new location will decrease for two-thirds of residents from low-income neighborhoods in the region," Reese said.

The proposed replacement hospital for St. Elizabeth's is located less than two miles from Memorial Hospital-East, a 94-bed hospital that is under construction in Shiloh.

That geographic proximity of the two hospitals, Thomure said, "would be a duplication of services."

Reese responded: "St. Elizabeth's is a full-service replacement hospital, and the full-service replacement hospital will offer more than Memorial's satellite facility. St. Elizabeth's looks forward to continuing to collaborate with Memorial."

Memorial has continued to expand its Belleville campus, with recent construction of the $24 million Orthopedic and Neurosciences Center and a $6 million renovation to Memorial Care Center, Thomure said.

Before St. Elizabeth's can begin construction of the replacement hospital, it must receive Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board approval, which is called a certificate of need.

St. Elizabeth's officials plan to file a request for the certificate of need by the end of the summer and expect approval by the board in the fall, Reese said Wednesday.

Thomure said: "It would be premature to make further comment on St. Elizabeth's plan until the application is filed and we have had an opportunity to review."

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at or 618-239-2460.

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