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St. E’s plan is about wants, not needs

When St. Elizabeth’s declared its plans to shutter their Belleville hospital and build a new facility in O’Fallon, immediately a group of concerned citizens formed: Oppose the Move, Save St. E’s Belleville. To be clear, it is not because we think St. E’s is fine just the way they are; we don’t. We are in total agreement that St. E’s needs to modernize their facilities and provide state-of-the-art health care. We are in total opposition to having St. E’s move away from this region to achieve these things. We want Belleville, the city that has supported St. E’s for 140 years, to continue to be the location for their new state-of-the-art hospital.

The state regulatory process currently underway is called “Certificate of Need.” We believe St. E’s is focusing on a “Certificate of Want.” In reviewing St. E’s state application, we found some items that cause concern. The application requires St. E’s to specify what would happen to the discontinued facility. Their answer was (on page 76) “the existing hospital will be vacated. The hospital will continue to maintain it until an appropriate re-use (if any) can be decided upon.” We keep hearing them talk about keeping certain things in Belleville, but there is no consistency to what they say and more importantly nothing holding them to leaving anything behind.

The reasons why they cannot stay in Belleville are shallow. They claim issues with one-way streets and parking (p. 80). The reality is they own 12 city blocks of downtown Belleville and the city would have been willing to work with them on any of these issues, but St. E’s never tried. They purchased the land in O’Fallon in 2011.

St. E’s also says a modernization of their current facility would cost upwards of $365 million (p. 101). Where is the support for these numbers? Review the application yourself on the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board website www.hfsrb.illinois.gov.

If St. E’s relocates, the impact on residents of Belleville and communities south will be devastating. Charity care for the poor is currently shared between Memorial and St. E’s with Memorial supporting 52 percent to St. E’s 48 percent. Those most impacted and unable to travel to a hospital farther away will be the poor and underserved. The reality is: St. E’s is moving to a wealthier community and away from those who need them the most.

What’s more, the impact on Memorial will be huge in terms of things like emergency services and bed space. When Memorial East opens, they will need to reduce the Belleville hospital by 100 beds as per the terms of their approval. That leaves Belleville residents in a more crowded hospital with fewer beds.

Right now, St. E’s management is orchestrating a media campaign to fool citizens into believing that there is nothing anyone can do because it’s a done deal. If they don’t get approval, St. E’s claims they will still leave Belleville because it’s unprofitable. That’s too bad. And by law, they just can’t do that. Memorial has found a way to be successful here.

Our group put together a map that puts it quite simply. The map shows a line west to east through Belleville. If St. E’s is allowed to move north, there are only 51 hospital beds to the south and west. If you look above the line, there are already 1,523 beds approved and operating in a 50-mile radius. St. E’s approval would increase that count to 1,767 beds. 51 vs. 1,767 – we can all see the problem with that.

The O’Fallon site would put St. E’s at the top of their own defined primary and secondary service areas, leaving people to the south and west of Belleville out of luck. It’s clear from our map that this is not just a Belleville problem. In fact, the communities to the south and west have voiced their opposition, resulting in numerous city resolutions.

The time to act is now. This is not a done deal. We can save our hospital and keep Belleville strong.

Join us and have your voice heard at a second public hearing. The hearing will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, East St. Louis. Signup begins at 4:30pm. We urge you to visit www.opposethemove.com for more information and to find out how you can help by writing letters.

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