What's the next step for St. Elizabeth's Hospital?

News-DemocratJune 28, 2014 

Before St. Elizabeth's Hospital of Belleville can build a $300 million, 144-bed hospital north of Interstate 64 and west of Green Mount Road in O'Fallon and close its downtown Belleville hospital, the hospital must secure a certificate of need from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.

Under Illinois law, nursing homes, hospitals and other medical centers must apply for and receive a certificate of need from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board before they can build, expand or close a medical building.

The following are some answers to questions about the certificate of need process:

What is the purpose of the certificate of need?

According to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, the certificate of need is "designed to restrain rising health care costs by preventing unnecessary construction or modification of health care facilities." It was established by the Health Facilities Planning Act. The board also states that the certificate of need "promotes cost containment, better management and improved planning by health care providers."

Who is on the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board?

The board is comprised of nine independent members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services and the directors of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and Department of Public Health are non-voting members.

How do hospitals obtain a certificate of need?

At least five of the nine members of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board must approve the request in order to receive the certificate of need. According to the board, the applicant "must justify that a proposed project is needed and financially and economically feasible." The applicant "will have to show need and reasons for opening or closing," said board administrator Courtney Avery. "That is up to hospital to provide that and make the case that this is the best possible use of that space and there is a need in the area."

How long does it take to receive a certificate of need?

St. Elizabeth's Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Maryann Reese said the hospital plans to file for the certificate of need later this summer and expects the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board to approve it in the fall. In April 2011, Memorial Hospital in Belleville announced it was seeking a certificate of need to build a satellite hospital in Shiloh and received its permit at the board's meeting held two months later.

How are the board meetings conducted?

Applicants are invited to speak before the board and present their arguments for their request. Board members can then ask questions of the applicant to help determine the board's decision. In June 2011, when Memorial Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Turner formally presented a request to build a satellite hospital in Shiloh during a board meeting in Joliet, board member Dr. James Burden questioned Turner and fellow presenters from Memorial Hospital over the low percentage of beds in use throughout metro-east hospitals. Burden pointed to the recent closing of Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital in East St. Louis and also questioned the Belleville hospital's commitment to the metro-east and likened their cause to riverboat gamblers. Turner responded by reminding Burden and fellow board members that Memorial Hospital was already investing in its Belleville property by building a new orthopedic and neurosciences center, which has since opened, and had been spending $15 million a year in capital improvements. Today, Memorial Hospital-East in under construction in Shiloh.

In the June 2011 board meeting, both Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert and Shiloh Mayor Jim Vernier spoke on behalf of Memorial Hospital in support of the proposed satellite hospital. Prior to the board meeting, administrators from St. Elizabeth's Hospital issued a letter objecting to Memorial Hospital's proposal and stating that Memorial Hospital's application fails to meet state criteria for expanding. At that time, officials from St. Elizabeth's Hospital said that this opposition was not an anti-competitive reaction.

Can the public attend and comment?

Yes. The board has designated a maximum of 30 minutes for public participation on the day of each board meeting. Anyone who wants to comment must pre-register at least seven days prior to the scheduled board meeting. Pre-registration forms are available on the board's website: www.hfsrb.illinois.gov. Each speaker is allotted a maximum of two minutes.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 618-239-2526.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 618-239-2526.

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