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St. Elizabeth's Hospital gets green light to move to O'Fallon from Belleville

President and CEO, Maryann Reese, stands in front of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in downtown Belleville, IL. The current building was completed in 1954.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

An eight member board of an Illinois health services regulatory agency voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve St. Elizabeth's Hospital's plans to relocate from Belleville to O'Fallon. 

The Illinois Health and Facilities Review Board initially denied the hospital's request in January, but procedures allowed the hospital to submit additional data in an attempt to sway their decision.

St. Elizabeth's Hospital is part of the Hospital Sisters Health System. 

“We are thrilled that we can move forward with our plans to build a state-of-the art hospital for the region and an ambulatory care center that anticipates the continued trend toward outpatient care.  The new medical campus will enhance our ability to develop an integrated care delivery model that will serve residents from across Southwestern Illinois,” the hospital's president and CEO, Maryann Reese, said in a press release. 

The quarter-billion dollar project's anticipated completion date is December 31, 2017. 

Original Story: State Board Issues Initial Denial for St. Elizabeth's Hospital Request to Move

A state board has issued an initial denial to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s attempt to move from downtown Belleville to nearby O’Fallon.  

The 303-bed hospital’s application to close its doors and build a new facility in O’Fallon failed by one vote after its presentation to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board Tuesday. Of the board members present, four voted in favor of the move—but the application required five votes to move forward. (Eight people sit on the board). Hospital officials are now allowed to provide additional information to the board for a second consideration.  

“We are optimistic that when more members are present we will get the five affirmative votes we need for approval,” St. Elizabeth’s president and CEO, Maryann Reese, wrote in a statement. St. Elizabeth’s is part of the Hospital Sisters Health System, or HSHS.

St. Elizabeth’s application details plans to build a 144-bed hospital seven miles away in O’Fallon, IL, with close access to Interstate 64. The project would be completed by the end of 2017, at an estimated cost of $253.5 million. In addition, St. Elizabeth’s would construct a $34 million Ambulatory Care Center.

Read previous coverage of the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital move here.

In addition, the hospital proposed closing its existing 303-bed hospital in downtown Belleville, much to the dismay of city officials and the local business community. The plans call for some services to be retained in Belleville, including pediatrics, some outpatient and administrative services. The hospital also wants to building an urgent care center.

In its application, the hospital argued that its current facility is aging, obsolete and located in a business district which creates access issues. Opponents argue the hospital will leave a void in downtown Belleville, and reduce access for people who live nearby. St. Elizabeth’s competitor, Memorial Hospital, began building a 94-bed hospital in Shiloh last year, which will likely serve O’Fallon patients.  

During two public hearings, opponents argued the hospital’s move would hurt businesses in downtown Belleville. A letter issued by the St. Clair Health Department (the county includes both O’Fallon and Belleville, its county seat) warned that “a large concentration of medically underserved and vulnerable population lives in close proximity to the current location … Transportation barriers may reduce access to the proposed location, resulting in a shift of emergency and ambulatory care services to other hospitals that may not have the capacity to meet this increased demand.”

According to the US Census Bureau, O’Fallon’s population topped 29,000 in 2013, with steady growth and a median household income of $75,021.

At the same time, Belleville’s population was just under 43,000, and has remained relatively stagnant for more than a decade. Median household income was $47,348.

St. Louis University health management and policy professor Kevin Broom said it’s not unusual for hospitals to move to wealthier areas, where patients are more likely to be privately insured. Medicaid and Medicare tend to reimburse hospitals at lower rates than private insurers.

“Organizations that operate within a competitive marketplace, regardless if they’re for-profit or non-profit, they still have to be financially viable to be able to survive,” Broom said.  

In 2013, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital took on the cost of caring for 6,675 patients who could not pay for their stays, at a cost of $4.3 million, according to the hospital’s latest community benefit report. So-called “charity care” is an expectation of non-profit hospitals, which do not pay federal income taxes.

St. Elizabeth’s competitor, Memorial Hospital, began building a 94-bed hospital in Shiloh last year, which will likely serve O’Fallon patients.   

For more news on the healthcare industry, follow Durrie Bouscaren on Twitter: @durrieB