Lucille Rasp, 88, of Shiloh, along with several other family members, were in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony Friday afternoon on Regency Park Drive in O’Fallon.
“We are happy,” Lucille Rasp said on behalf of her family. Lucille Rasp and her late husband, Lee, sold the property to the health system.
“We feel this part (of the area) really needs a hospital; another hospital besides Memorial,” Lucille Rasp said.
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Memorial Hospital in Belleville is constructing a satellite campus to be known as Memorial Hospital East just miles away from where St. Elizabeth’s has started preliminary work on its new 144-bed hospital.
“It’s really overcrowded,” Lucille Rasp said of the O’Fallon-Shiloh area.
Daughter Rita Kramkowski said her late father would be happy. “He would have been proud,” Kramkowski said.
St. Elizabeth’s CEO Maryann Reese told the crowd gathered under a large white tent near the construction site that the hospital is “changing lives and making our world a better place.”
She acknowledged change is difficult, but St. Elizabeth’s is embarking on a major change, she said, “that will make the care we provide even better.”
Maryann Starmann-Harrison, president and CEO of HSHS, said: “Our dedication to our patients is the reason HSHS is investing $300 million in a new hospital and ambulatory care center on this property. It’s not every day we make a sizable investment. It’s an investment that will yield trans-formative benefits for patients...for years to come.”
The cost for the new hospital is estimated to be $253 million, plus $34 million for the adjacent ambulatory care center.
Starmann-Harrison said the new facility will allow hospital employees to work “more efficiently and have that extra energy to share with our patients and families.
“Our healthcare ministry is about so much more than glass and steel and high-tech equipment,” she said. “It’s about the energy, talents and time we invest to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Bill Lyke, chairman of the hospital’s Board of Directors, said a replacement St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is “necessary in order to provide the best possible healthcare.”
Sister Maureen O’Connor of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis said, “God has led us to our designated goal, and we have arrived.”
The groundbreaking and blessing ceremony, which was live-streamed to employees at the hospital, was an invitation-only event. Attendees were supporters of the project including members of the Hospital Sisters Health System, which owns St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, priests in the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, members of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital board of directors, representatives of Scott Air Force Base, O’Fallon Mayor Gary Graham and state Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon.
“This is a great day,” McCarter said after the ceremony. “It’s been a long, hard-fought battle.”
St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s plans to move to O’Fallon were met with opposition from community members in Belleville as well as Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert and other city officials.
And the opposition continues. Late last month, the city of Belleville filed a suit asking a judge to overturn the state health board, which approved St. Elizabeth’s plan in April. The city has spent nearly $165,000, so far, to wage its fight against the hospital’s plan to relocate.
“It’s the biggest win for the metro-east,” Graham said, to have two hospitals located near the interstates. He said the St. Louis area has 11 hospitals off the interstates. “We feel bad about Belleville, but we are happy for the county.”
During the ceremony, Reese told Graham: “We look forward to building a stronger relationship with you and the O’Fallon community.”
Reese also said the hospital looks forward to continuing its residency partnership with nearby Scott Air Force Base. “And Scott Air Force Base will have a state-of-the-art medical facility right here on this land,” she said.
Developer Darwin Miles, who also sold land in O’Fallon to HSHS, was also in attendance at the ceremony Friday.
“Today we are witnessing the rising of the western cornerstone of the Illinois medical mile on the I-64 healthcare highway where miracles will happen,” Miles said. “The miracles will be seen in both lifesaving healthcare as well as economy-saving growth.”
Edward Braxton, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, assisted by the Rev. James Deiters, a member of the hospital’s board of directors, blessed the hospital’s future site with holy water.
“I, too, share the joy and enthusiasm that has been expressed this afternoon,” Braxton said during his remarks to the crowd.
Reese shared with attendees that the design of the new hospital will incorporate roses. “The St. Elizabeth’s statue will be encircled with a rose garden,” she said, “and roses will be the main theme and etched in much of the glass throughout St. Elizabeth’s Hospital O’Fallon.”
Attendees at the ceremony Friday were given a small container of dirt with a prayer attached to it. They will be invited back to the hospital’s grand opening ceremony to put the dirt from the container in the flower beds outside the facility, according to hospital spokeswoman Kelly Barbeau.
Construction of the hospital is expected to be complete by the end of 2017.
“We plan for healthcare for tomorrow and the next 140 years,” Reese said. “Let’s get ready to build.”