Time to heal deep wounds from St. E’s departure

Construction is well underway at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s replacement hospital in O’Fallon.
Construction is well underway at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s replacement hospital in O’Fallon. dholtmann@bnd.com

“We are not abandoning Belleville,” said St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s former President and Chief Executive Officer Maryann Reese in December 2014.

You might notice that both she and the hospital are essentially gone from Belleville. What’s essentially left behind are the messy details.

The Belleville hospital is building a $300 million replacement facility in O’Fallon. Once upon a time it promised to leave something behind: an urgicare, outpatient services or medical offices. It also promised not to leave a vacant eyesore but create something that complements downtown Belleville.

But Belleville sued and tried to stop the boat that already left the dock and is steaming toward O’Fallon. St. Elizabeth’s folks refused to talk about what will be left behind as long as Belleville had a torpedo in the water.

On Thursday, St. Clair County Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf tossed Belleville’s suit. He decided the competing health care facilities had standing to challenge the move from Belleville to O’Fallon, but not the health care consumers as represented by Belleville.

So the question is: what now?

State Rep. Jay Hoffman said St. Elizabeth’s owners refused to talk about the future of the Belleville site as long as Belleville was suing. Belleville has not indicated whether it is time to put aside arms or appeal their lawsuit.

St. Elizabeth’s is in the healing business, so maybe its leaders should work to heal this rift with the community that fostered and supported them for 140 years. Belleville cannot be made whole after losing nearly 1,300 hospital jobs to O’Fallon, but the hospital indicated it is now ready to work towards Reese’s promise not to turn its back.

Belleville can realize that it lost this argument twice — before the state hospital board and now in court. It, too, should turn its attention to making the best of a tough situation.

It is time for both sides to put ego and rancor aside so they can talk about the path forward.