Centegra Health System can move forward with plans to permanently discontinue some services at its Woodstock hospital after receiving approval from a state board.
At a meeting Nov. 14 in Bolingbrook, the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board approved an application from Centegra to eliminate medical-surgical and intensive care beds at Centegra Hospital-Woodstock.
The health system in June announced plans to cut most inpatient services at its Woodstock hospital and began implementing those changes in August. Centegra needed approval from the IHFSRB, which regulates where hospitals are located, to make those changes permanent.
The cuts leave Centegra-Woodstock with a basic, rather than comprehensive, emergency room, meaning patients who need intensive care or to be admitted overnight will be transferred to Centegra’s hospitals in McHenry or Huntley. Centegra-Woodstock will continue to offer behavioral health services, and rehabilitation beds will be added.
Permission from the IHFSRB for Centegra to make cuts at its Woodstock hospital was a formality. State law requires the board to approve applications for certificates of exemption once they are complete.
“By statute, this board has no choice at this point but to approve this project,” said IHFSRB Chair Kathy Olson.
Centegra’s plans for its Woodstock hospital have encountered opposition from some residents and local leaders, with an October hearing on the application attracting hundreds of people. At the meeting Nov. 14, Mayor Brian Sager, Woodstock Fire/Rescue District Chief Michael Hill and Woodstock resident Paul Lockwood spoke about the changes.
Sager, who said the city had long had a good partnership with Centegra, acknowledged the board would have to grant the request but asked that another hospital be allowed to open in Woodstock.
“I will boldly request … that, when other health care providers express interest in providing quality, comprehensive, accessible and reliable hospital and emergency services, the board will discover an equally compelling obligation to approve that certificate of need,” Sager said.
Lockwood echoed that statement, saying easy access to a comprehensive hospital is one of the reasons his family moved to Woodstock. (Lockwood is a columnist for The Woodstock Independent.)
“Centegra clearly doesn’t want the expense of truly meeting Woodstock’s medical needs. The large turnout to the public hearings should prove Woodstock wants and needs a full-service hospital,” Lockwood said. “I strongly urge all of you to keep that in mind if another health care provider asks permission to bring a real hospital back to Woodstock.”
Hill told the board WFRD ambulance crews have taken nearly half of their patients to out-of-town hospitals since cuts were made at Centegra-Woodstock, up from about 10 percent before the changes were implemented.
“One of our greatest transport concerns is that the Woodstock hospital will no longer accept patients with severe airway compromise,” Hill said. “These patients are already experiencing what could be considered a true, life-threatening emergency, and will now require an extra 10 minutes of transport time before they can be seen in the emergency department.”
Centegra officials did not speak on the applications.
In total, the board approved four applications from Centegra: two for certificates of exemption to cut 60 medical-surgical beds, 12 intensive care beds and five operating rooms in Woodstock, as well as to discontinue physical rehabilitation services in McHenry; one to establish a 22-bed comprehensive rehab service in Woodstock; and one to convert four medical-surgical beds to ICU beds in Huntley.
“These projects will help us provide patients the care they need in locations that are most convenient for the entire community,” Hadley Streng, Centegra’s senior vice president of strategy and development, wrote in an email. “They also ensure our patients will continue to have local access to essential programs and services, which has always been our goal.”
Centegra officials have said the changes will help to streamline health care delivery and stabilize the health system’s finances. Centegra reportedly posted $62.3 million in operating losses in the last fiscal year, and in September, it announced plans to eliminate 361 jobs through outsourcing or layoffs.