Updated: February 4, 2013 2:48PM
Four years ago, when the idea of replacing Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet with a $400 million technological palace in New Lenox was proposed, some official reaction was hostile and derogatory.
Isn’t it always that way when a valued hometown institution decides on fundamental change? Change makes people antsy and fearful.
We clearly recall the Joliet public officials who called moving the hospital a “disaster” that would turn Silver Cross’ back on the people of Joliet four miles away.
Whether the negative reaction was excusable concern for under-represented constituencies, or self-serving hysteria, you can judge for yourself. But the new hospital celebrated its first Christmas in the new digs last week, and we’d judge it an unqualified smash hit. It is serving more patients with better medicine. Hard to find fault with that.
First, the new hospital solved a critical problem at the old hospital that was never going to be repaired. The older building’s emergency department was the gateway to 50,000 patients a year, and the growing area population would breach the department’s capacity in five years. The emergency unit was at the far end of a 100-yard walk to the patient tower.
The new unit’s capacity likely will handle the emergency load for 50 years, and Joliet emergency patients who were taken to the old hospital now are taken to the new one.
Sometimes obsolescence can’t be repaired merely with a technology transplant. Silver Cross needed to serve more people more efficiently. A modern hospital in a more accessible area, right off I-355, was the only answer.
As a counter benefit to Joliet, the old hospital is being converted to a military veterans heath center, a fundamental asset that otherwise might never have existed.
The original Silver Cross had technology and architecture created for a far smaller, less diverse population. The new hospital was well-planned and well-built for 21st century needs. Silver Cross did its job, and the people of Will County benefitted.
The old Silver Cross had been a fine hospital since its founding in 1895. That tradition has been upheld.