CL hospital: ‘Rules that are not followed are no rules at all’
Mercyhealth executives have accused Centegra Health System of “abandoning” Woodstock and striving to eliminate competition in the area.
In an interview with five Mercy vice presidents, the executives took aim at Centegra for filing suit last month against the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, for suspending inpatient care in Woodstock, and for taking a “gamble” on Centegra Hospital-Huntley.
Centegra officials responded with a written statement.
In a 27-page lawsuit filed July 25, Centegra said the health facilities board failed to follow its own rules when, on June 20, it granted Mercy permission to build a small hospital in Crystal Lake.
Centegra is asking the court to reverse the board’s decision, arguing Mercy’s plans for a $79.5 million hospital and accompanying $18.8 million medical office building fall far short of a board rule that hospitals have at least 100 beds. Mercy’s Crystal Lake hospital would have 13 beds.
Advocate Health Care filed a motion to intervene in the case as well.
“Mercy’s most recent proposal is the most non-compliant proposal they have submitted to date, and by approving it the IHFSRB failed to comply with its own rules,” Centegra CEO Michael Eesley said in a written statement. “Under the circumstances, Centegra was compelled to file this lawsuit. Rules that are not followed are no rules at all.”
Courtney Avery, administrator for the health facilities board, declined to comment on the lawsuit while it is pending in court. But Mercy executives ripped the lawsuit and Centegra.
“They’ve used the system, to, in essence, eliminate competition. So, frankly, is Advocate, too,” said Paul Van Den Heuvel, Mercy’s vice president of legal affairs and general counsel. “… We just want to open a 13-bed hospital and comprehensive emergency room in Crystal Lake.”
Van Den Heuvel was joined in the interview by Vice Presidents Jeni Hallatt and Tom Jensen; Jennifer Hall, vice president of government relations and community advocacy; and Barbara Bortner, vice president of marketing and public relations.
Van Den Heuvel said the health facilities board acted within its powers when it granted a permit for Mercy’s Crystal Lake hospital. He noted many hospitals throughout the state fall short of the 100-bed minimum.
“We took a look at the numbers and we sized the facility,” he said. “It’s criteria; it is not a standard.”
Centegra’s announcement that it is suspending inpatient care at Centegra Hospital-Woodstock came one day after Mercy received permission to build a hospital in Crystal Lake. Van Den Heuvel said, had Mercy known about Centegra’s plans during the application process, Mercy’s position before the board would have been strengthened.
“They would have said, ‘Woodstock’s closing. Shouldn’t you have an application for a lot more beds here?’” Van Den Heuvel said.
Centegra Hospital-Woodstock is not closing altogether, but Mercy officials argued the reduced services at Centegra Hospital-Woodstock — among them, suspending inpatient care, ending surgeries and downgrading its ER to a basic, rather than comprehensive, emergency room — will create a “health care desert” in central and southeastern McHenry County when paired with Centegra’s opposition to a new hospital in Crystal Lake.
“They’re abandoning the county seat, a legacy going back to [1914, when Woodstock’s hospital opened], and collectively, with their opposition to Crystal Lake, a population of 100,000,” Van Den Heuvel said. “… This is nonprofit health care?”
But in his statement, Eesley said Centegra’s mission in McHenry County has not changed.
“Centegra Health System will not be distracted from our sole purpose, which has remained unchanged for more than 100 years: to provide high-quality care to the people of our community. This requires mindful planning and the ability to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our patients and the health care industry,” Eesley’s statement read. “Our medical staff and associates live in this community and are proud to provide an exceptional patient experience for our neighbors and friends.”
Mercy and Centegra have long battled over expansion in McHenry County. Mercy opposed Centegra’s 128-bed facility in Huntley, which opened about a year ago, and Van Den Heuvel placed some of the blame for Centegra’s recent moves on that facility.
“They made a decision years ago to gamble on Huntley, and they went to Vegas and they lost their shirt, and now they’re asking the citizens of Woodstock, Crystal Lake and surrounding communities to pay,” Van Den Heuvel said.
Centegra was set to wind down inpatient care at its Woodstock hospital this week. Mercy executives said there may come a time when they look to expand in Woodstock, saying they would take it under “strong advisement.”