All eyes are focused on what will happen today at the state Health Facilities and Services Review Board meeting. But it’s equally important for people to look to Wednesday and the days to come.
The state is expected to vote today on St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s request to move from Belleville to O’Fallon. The atmosphere has become increasingly negative leading up to the meeting. There have been passionate flair-ups between neighbors and neighboring communities, with accusations including that St. E’s is abandoning the poor in its quest for a better payer mix, and that Memorial Hospital is trying to put its competition out of business. Even clergy members are divided.
Whatever the board decides today, this issue likely isn’t over. If St. Elizabeth’s certificate of need is denied, the hospital has a year to present more information and request another vote. If the CON application is approved, the opponents may take legal steps to block the relocation.
At some point there will be a final decision, of course, and then the community will want and need to come back together. The less damage inflicted between now and then, the easier the process will be. Instead of fighting a death match, both sides should continue to seek the common good, impossible as that may seem right now.
Most area residents don’t want to pick one hospital over the other, and they shouldn’t have to do so. It is to everyone’s benefit for both St. Elizabeth’s and Memorial to be strong and successful so they are able to provide quality health care to the community. Regardless of the state’s decision today, hospital and community leaders need to figure out how to make that happen.