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Officials warn planned emergency centers in Frankfort could impact care

Illinois Health Facilities Services Review Board members chairman Dale Galassie administrator Courtney Avery (left) listen people officials hearing competing medical

Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board members chairman Dale Galassie and administrator Courtney Avery (left) listen to people and officials at a hearing on competing medical centers proposed for Frankfort. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 12, 2013 2:36PM



Competing plans to build an emergency medical center in Frankfort could ultimately hurt the level of care offered at some Southland hospitals, health care executives told a state review board Thursday.

Both Silver Cross Hospital and Riverside Medical Center want to open multimillion-dollar emergency centers in the village, and the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board is expected to rule Feb. 5 on the proposals.

Both submitted plans to the state in November, with Silver Cross proposing an $8.8 million ER at U.S. 30 and 93rd Avenue, while Riverside plans a $10 million center at LaGrange and Steger roads. Silver Cross had previously planned to build a medical office building on the Frankfort land, but the center was shelved once the economy fell into a recession, according to Ruth Colby, chief strategy officer with Silver Cross in New Lenox, which also operates an urgent care center in Homer Glen.

Karen James, a planning manager with Advocate Health Care, which operates Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, spoke out against both proposals at Thursday’s hearing. She said there are already ample hospitals and urgent care centers to serve the area, and that the opening of a freestanding ER could worsen staffing shortages at South Suburban and other hospitals, possibly compromising patient care.

After her public comments, James said 15 percent of South Suburban’s nursing positions are vacant, and staff at South Suburban and other hospitals might jump ship to take jobs at a new Frankfort health center.

Thomas Senesac, chief financial officer with Franciscan St. James Health, owner of hospitals in Chicago Heights and Olympia Fields, said there are plenty of emergency care options for Frankfort-area residents, noting the emergency departments at both Franciscan hospitals have excess capacity.

Senesac said the Olympia Fields hospital is just five miles east of Frankfort, and the possible siphoning off of ER patients — and revenue — by a new Frankfort facility would have “significant repercussions” for the hospital.

Lisa Lagger, chief relations officer for Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, also objected to both plans, saying Frankfort-area residents have “ample access to emergency care.”

‘Clearly a need’

Some Frankfort residents — as well as doctors who live in the community — said at the public hearing that a full-service emergency department would be a welcome addition, but differed on which proposal should get the state’s nod.

Ryan Meiners, a radiology physician who lives in Frankfort, said he supported Kankakee-based Riverside’s plan. He said he works closely with ER doctors at Riverside, and said many of the hospital’s physicians live in or near Frankfort.

“There is clearly a need in this community” for Riverside’s project, he said.

Chirag Desai, an oral surgeon at Silver Cross, pointed out that health care centers such as those proposed by Riverside and Silver Cross aren’t equipped to handle every emergency, and that a heart attack victim, for example, would ultimately need to be taken to a hospital. Riverside Medical Center is 28 miles to the south of its proposed Frankfort facility, while Silver Cross is 11 miles north.

Desai noted that Riverside is proposing its center in a predominately residential area, while Silver Cross would be in an area zoned for commercial development.

Maria Neuhaus said the Riverside center would be her next-door neighbor, and doesn’t want to see the project approved.

“We specifically moved there because it was a quiet residential neighborhood,” she said.



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