Metro-East News

August 11, 2014

St. Elizabeth's looks for digital letters of support for O'Fallon hospital

St. Elizabeth's Hospital is looking for public, written support in favor of its new hospital proposed for O'Fallon.

The website http://www.supportsteliz.org includes the latest developments on the plans for the new hospital, past media coverage and a place to submit a letter of support as well as a website to go to disagree with the project.

St. Elizabeth's leaders announced in June that they would pursue plans to build a regional hospital and medical office building on 114 acres of land in O'Fallon.

Melissa Sterling, spokeswoman for St. Elizabeth's parent company Springfield-based Hospital Sisters Health Systems, said the website exists to answer basic questions about the project. "It's an extra resource to get the whys answered," she said.

The website is part of a larger marketing campaign to draw support from across the community, Sterling said.

The next step to build the $300 million, 144-bed hospital north of Interstate 64 and west of Green Mount Road, is for St. Elizabeth's to apply for a certificate of need from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board. Under Illinois law, nursing homes and hospitals must apply for and receive a certificate of need before they can build a new medical building.

Sterling said the group is "really close" to submitting the certificate of need to the state board.

At the time of the announcement, St. Elizabeth's president and CEO Maryann Reese said she expected to apply for the certificate later this summer and have the board review it by the fall.

Those who visit supportsteliz.org can click the link "Submit a letter of support" and a form letter will be brought up addressed to Courtney Avery, administrator at the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board. In five steps, including answering a series of questions, choosing opening and closing sentence options and "signing" the letter with your mouse, you'll be able to submit the letter.

The letters will be included as support for the project after the certificate of need is filed.

Letters will be posted on the Illinois Health Facilities and Review Board website and will include a user's IP address. An email address can only be used once to submit a letter of support.

Sterling said St. Elizabeth's is looking for "regional partners, residences and patients to respond" with letters of support.

The website also lists a place for those who are not happy about the proposed hospital relocation to raise their digital voices: "Once the CON project is filed, if you have comments of opposition, you may submit them through the Review Board website at http://www.hfsrb.illinois.gov."

After St. Elizabeth's hospital relocates to O'Fallon, some medical buildings will remain but the Belleville hospital likely will be vacated. That caused some people in Belleville to express concern.

In April, the Belleville City Council approved the hiring of an attorney specializing in health law in an effort to keep St. Elizabeth's Hospital in town.

In addition, officials at Memorial Hospital in Belleville said that St. Elizabeth's was abandoning the "medically underserved" people of Belleville. Also, they said the replacement hospital would duplicate services of Memorial Hospital-East, a 94-bed hospital that is under construction in Shiloh.

But St. Elizabeth's said the new hospital would be just seven miles from the Belleville campus. The downtown Belleville campus is landlocked on 17 acres, and it would take twice as much time and money to retrofit the Belleville hospital facility for modern medical needs.

"We have great things to say," Sterling said of the replacement hospital. "There's going to be great service here in Belleville and great service on I-64."

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

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