St. E's gets plenty of support for its move to O'Fallon -- but not from rival hospitals

News-DemocratAugust 27, 2014 

More than 30 letters of support and two in opposition were included in St. Elizabeth's Hospital application to a state agency to build a state-of-the-art hospital in O'Fallon to replace the aging Belleville facility.

Neighboring Illinois hospitals, community leaders and others, including the head of the Diocese of Belleville, wrote letters that were included in the 493-page certificate of need that was filed Monday with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.

Two letters included in the document that did not support the replacement hospital were from leaders of competitors Memorial Hospital in Belleville and Anderson Hospital in Maryville.

The Most Rev. Most Rev. Edward K. Braxton wrote, "For nearly 140 years, St. Elizabeth Hospital, Hospital Sisters Health System, and the Sisters of St. Francis have been committed to embodying the healing love of Jesus Christ for all people through their high-quality Franciscan health care ministry. I am confident the proposed new facility will make it possible for St. Elizabeth Hospital to deepen its mission of caring for the sick in the metro-east region for generations to come."

St. Elizabeth's is located directly across the street from the Cathedral of St. Peter in downtown Belleville.

Maryann Reese, chief executive officer and president of St. Elizabeth's Hospital, said she was pleased by all the community support.

"The outpouring of support makes us feel really good," she said. "We've taken a lot of time and energy on this project. We're delighted that there are those that agree with us. We're looking forward to the future and they're looking forward with us."

Keith A. Page, the chief executive officer and president of Anderson Hospital, wrote that he does not agree with St. Elizabeth's plans to build near the new Memorial Hospital-East, under construction in Shiloh.

"Anderson Hospital does not support the relocation of St. Elizabeth's Hospital from its Belleville campus to O'Fallon," Page wrote. "Anderson Hospital draws few patients from the O'Fallon area but objectively it does not seem rational to build two new hospitals so close together. As in-patient services continue to transition to outpatient services, it appears that a more cost-effective approach would include retaining in-patient services at St. Elizabeth's Belleville location while expanding outpatient services in the desirable O'Fallon market."

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

Memorial Hospital President and CEO Mark Turner also wrote an objection letter.

"St. Elizabeth's Hospital and Memorial Belleville have shared responsibility for providing essential services to residents of Belleville, including many who are financially disadvantaged," Turner wrote. "Many of St. Elizabeth's current patients will not travel to O'Fallon for their care, and Memorial Belleville does not have the physical capacity to absorb this significant patient influx."

Under Illinois law, nursing homes, hospitals and other medical centers must apply for and receive a certificate of need from the nine-member board before they can build, expand or close a medical building.

As part of the process, the hospital CEO must notify via letter all hospitals within a 45-mile radius of the certificate of need application. That correspondence is included in the application.

Two of the hospitals returned letters in support of the move: St. Joseph's in Highland and St. Joseph's in Breese. Both those hospitals are owned by HSHS, St. Elizabeth's parent company.

The certificate of need application stated that the current hospital "is located in the middle of the city of Belleville, which was a convenient location over 100 years ago when the original hospital was established, but not now given traffic and growth."

Other letters of support came from city leaders in Collinsville, Highland, Lebanon and Sparta. In addition, educators from O'Fallon and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville penned letters of support, as did members of multiple construction and real estate groups. O'Fallon residents, clergy, and patients, doctors and staff members from St. Elizabeth's also submitted letters in support.

St. Elizabeth's announced in June that it will build a $300 million, 144-bed hospital on 114 acres of land north of I-64 and west of Green Mount Road, about seven miles from the hospital's current location.

St. Elizabeth's has been located in downtown Belleville for nearly 140 years. The current hospital building was constructed in the 1950s.

"The main hospital facility is over 60 years old and functionally obsolete," according to the certificate of need.

Some of the specific reasons listed why the Belleville hospital building is out of date include:

* semi-private rooms, while contemporary standards call for private rooms;

* lack of adequate hand-washing stations;

* lack of bathing facilities in each patient room; and

* some patient rooms have no doors, which compromise HIPPA compliance.

Reese has said that it would take twice as long and cost twice as much to retrofit the Belleville hospital to correspond with modern-day medicine.

What's next?

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board deemed St. Elizabeth's certificate of need complete Tuesday, one day after receiving it.

Next, there will be a public hearing in the metro-east for community members to voice support and concerns about the relocation plan. Reese said she is not sure when or where the public hearing will be.

Then, the board will vote to approve or reject the certificate of need application. That hearing must be held within 60 to 120 days of the certificate of need being filed.

"It could be November, December, January... we just really don't know," Reese said.

The certificate of need listed the anticipated date for the replacement hospital to be certified for occupancy by Dec. 31, 2017, "which will be the date of the discontinuation of the current hospital," she said.

But Reese cautioned that that date is an estimate.

"Once we put a shovel to the ground, it'll take 2.5 to 3 years to build the new hospital to finish it," Reese said. "Dec. 31, 2017, is an estimated date. It just depends on when we start."

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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