In less than three months, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital will close its doors in downtown Belleville after more than 140 years, and if a buyer can’t be found for the main hospital building, the structure will be demolished.
“We have pretty much reconciled ourselves at this point that the hospital (in Belleville) will be razed or go through a demolition process,” said Peg Sebastian, president and CEO of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
St. Elizabeth’s is relocating its hospital to the bustling Green Mount Road/Interstate 64 corridor in O’Fallon.
The $253 million replacement hospital is expected to open Nov. 4. Substantial construction is now complete, with hospital officials receiving the “keys” to the new building during a ceremony Thursday afternoon.
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Once the new 144-bed hospital is open seven miles away in O’Fallon, the 303-bed hospital in Belleville — the inpatient tower and all services — will close, according to a St. Elizabeth’s news release. St. Elizabeth’s is also building a $34 million ambulatory care center adjacent to the new hospital on the 120 acres of land, which will also open Nov. 4.
Sebastian said the transition will begin in mid-October with patients being moved when the new hospital officially opens. On the morning of Nov. 4, the emergency room at the Belleville hospital will close and the one at the new hospital in O’Fallon will open.
A security fence will be constructed around the 60-year-old building in downtown Belleville, and security personnel will be on site around the clock, the release stated.
“Security is very important; we want to make sure that not only colleagues and physicians that stay on campus are safe but also that the community feels safe once the hospital is vacated,” Sebastian said.
Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said in a news release the city “remains very concerned about the departure of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital” from 111 S. Third St.
“We will cooperate with the move of the hospital on Nov. 4, 2017, but it will be a sad day,” Eckert said in his statement.
We will cooperate with the move of the hospital on Nov. 4, 2017, but it will be a sad day.
Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert
St. Elizabeth’s Hospital officials are still seeking development inquiries for the downtown Belleville site, according to the hospital’s news release. The hospital is currently working with St. Louis-based Balke Brown to list the land parcels available for development, which total about 14 acres.
If a buyer can’t be found, St. Elizabeth’s plans to demolish the building.
“Several interested parties have already toured the site and building but have concluded that retro-fitting the aging, over 60-year-old facility with various environmental challenges and materials to meet today’s building standards would be too cost prohibitive,” Sebastian said in a released statement. “St. Elizabeth’s has dedicated dollars to use on both securing and demolishing the former hospital building. The action to secure and start demolition will be implemented immediately after the opening of the new hospital in November.”
The demolition will include the skywalk, which connects the current hospital to physician offices across the street.
Sebastian said St. Elizabeth’s has interviewed several different companies to perform the demolition and are in the final selection process. The demolition could take between eight and 12 months, she said.
Sebastian explained the Belleville hospital is three buildings configured together — the 1920s Lincoln tower, the 1950s general hospital footprint and the heart institute building.
Some medical services and doctor offices will remain and be provided out of the current physician office buildings in Belleville. According to the release, those services include:
▪ Same-day ambulatory clinic
▪ Physical, occupational and back-to-work therapy
▪ Radiology and laboratory services
▪ Southern Illinois Health Foundation clinic
▪ Belleville Family Medical Associates
▪ Primary care physicians’ and health care specialists’ office
Southern Illinois Health Foundation clinic will offer “no appointment necessary” care for minor illnesses or injuries, according to a statement from the hospital.
“Healthcare is about 80 percent outpatient so that’s our focus is to keep outpatient services in Belleville,” Sebastian said.
The state health board’s approval of the project included a condition: St. Elizabeth’s is required to keep about 200 employees in Belleville for at least two years.
According to the release, a handful of hospital and divisional departments will remain in Belleville including St. Elizabeth’s staff development, information technology, purchasing, marketing/communications, HSHS Southern Illinois Division Business Office, legal services and administration.
St. Elizabeth’s said in a statement that more than 250 employees will remain in Belleville. Hospital officials have previously said St. Elizabeth’s has about 1,100 employees.
St. Elizabeth’s is part of the Hospital Sisters Health System, which includes St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland and Holy Family Hospital in Greenville. The Belleville hospital traces its roots to 1875 when three nuns opened a hospital and convent in an old school house in St. Peter’s parish, according to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
Construction on the St. Elizabeth’s replacement hospital in O’Fallon began in June 2015 following approval from the state health board in April 2015. The city of Belleville attempted to halt construction of the new facility by filing a lawsuit against the hospital and state health board in St. Clair County court seeking to reverse the board’s decision. However, that lawsuit was dismissed in January 2016.
Potential development of Belleville buildings
St. Elizabeth’s officials formed a Belleville Health Campus Repurposing Task Force in April 2016 to pursue development possibilities. The names of the task force members have not been released nor have the number of meetings the group has had during the past year.
In addition, the hospital has been working with the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois to promote the site since late 2016.
“We are very proud to have the assistance of the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, led by Rhonda Sauget, who continues to promote our location at conferences in New York, Dallas and Houston for possible development,” Sebastian stated in the news release. “Additionally, we are partnering with community members, Mayor Eckert and our ward alderman and other business groups to further advance conversations on viable development options for the area through our Belleville Health Campus Repurposing Task Force.”
“The city is concerned about the future safety and appearance of the vacant property and trusts that HSHS will properly maintain the empty campus so as to avoid adversely affecting our downtown,” Eckert said in a news release. “The city remains optimistic about future development of this property, as we are reminded that our once empty Belleville West High School campus is now home to the outstanding Lindenwood University-Belleville with many new opportunities.”
The hospital is in the City Council’s Ward 5. The council members from Ward 5, Ed Dintelman and Shelly Schaefer, could not be reached for comment.
St. Elizabeth’s hired an architecture firm headquartered in St. Louis — the Lawrence Group — to provide construction and renovation plans for the current buildings on the Belleville site. “Small updates” are underway and will continue after the O’Fallon hospital opens, according to the release, to “further improve accessibility and aesthetics of the buildings.”
At a glance
These public events will celebrate St. Elizabeth’s replacement hospital opening in O’Fallon:
- A Bundles for Babies Fun Fair is Sept. 9 for families with children or those who may be expecting to deliver in the fall
- Open houses are Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 and will include tours of the new facility