St. Elizabeth’s is confident hospital will be approved

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NEW HOSPITAL: An artist’s rendering of the proposed new 144-bed hospital, which would be built on 114 acres north of Interstate 64 and west of Green Mount Road in O’Fallon.

Project would provide $300 million in union construction work

By CARL GREEN

Illinois Correspondent

Belleville – One negative vote was enough on Jan. 26 to waylay St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s plan to build a new hospital that could lead to many additional construction projects, but hospital leaders and supporters are confident the project will be approved eventually.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board needs five votes to approve the Certificate of Need request St. Elizabeth’s needs for the hospital project to move forward.

Only five board members attended a hearing and vote last month in Bolingbrook, meaning the plan needed a unanimous vote to pass. It didn’t get it.

Board member Philip Bradley, of Sangamon County, said he was concerned about possible duplication of services and voted against it.

St. Elizabeth’s could not delay the vote again because the board’s rules give applicants only one postponement, and the hospital used that up in December.

NOT GIVING UP

Hospital CEO Maryann Reese issued a hopeful statement about the project, which would provide much-needed work to Metro East union construction workers.

“While we’re disappointed that only five Review Board members were president, we are optimistic that when more members are president, we will get the five affirmative votes we need for approval,” she said. “We hope to have our project heard by the full board at an upcoming meeting.”

The vote leaves the project under “intent to deny” status, requiring that another board hearing be held, along with a vote on the project. Reese said the hospital will seek to address concerns that were raised at the Jan. 26 hearing

The new hospital would be built along Interstate 64 in O’Fallon, IL, a location that would be quicker and more convenient for a majority of patients, and would replace an old, 303-bed hospital in downtown Belleville that was built in the 1950s.

BIG PLANS

The all-union project is estimated to cost $253 million. An adjacent ambulatory care center would raise the amount to $300 million. Building trades leaders believe the surrounding development could increase the total workload to approximately $1 billion.

“It’s very important to the entire area,” said Totsie Bailey, president of the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council. “It’s just going to be massive for the area. It could take a year or more to do it.”

Construction workers are in a slow period right now, he said, and the hospital project would provide a much-needed boost.

Dale Stewart, executive secretary-treasurer for the council, said he remains confident the project will go through, eventually. He has been told that two of the three board members who did not come to the meeting in January had to deal with family emergencies.

“I’m convinced we’ll get it through,” he said. “It will just take us longer.”

HOW TO HELP

Susan Beeler, project manager for the hospital said supporters can help by writing statements of support on the website supportsteliz.org.

“We really need people to say, ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s seven miles away, we’re going to stay loyal to St. Elizabeth’s,” Beeler said. “We really need their support.”

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