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State could OK Christ Medical Center’s new plan in December

Advocate Christ Medical Center Oak Lawn.  |  Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. | Larry Ruehl~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 29, 2012 6:36AM



A scaled-down proposal to expand Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn could win state approval by Dec. 10.

That’s when Christ’s request to build a seven-story patient tower with 72 intensive care beds is expected to be heard by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board. The board’s December meeting will be at the Bolingbrook Golf Club, 2001 Rodeo Drive in Bolingbrook, according to George Roate, a certificate of need reviewer for the state board.

Because Christ’s latest plan calls for a smaller facility, a new application for a public hearing is not necessary, Roate said.

“It’s a modification, so it can be heard in the changed state,” he said. “They would need a new application for a hearing if the project’s size was increased, but this is a reduction.”

A plan approved last month by the Oak Lawn Village Board called for a nine-story tower with 108 intensive care beds. That plan was to go before the state board this coming Tuesday, but hospital officials asked for a deferral until the Dec. 10 meeting.

In a letter to the state board, Jeffrey So, Christ’s director of business development and community relations, wrote that “recent changes in health care delivery, both nationally and at Advocate, have caused us to re-examine the scope of this project.” He cited a trend of “fewer hospitalizations” because of the new federal health care law, which is designed to cut costs.

The renovated plan reduces the project by nearly 69,000 square feet and cuts the cost by nearly $46 million, So wrote in his letter to the board. But it would allow for the addition of more floors in the future if needed, he wrote.

Christ’s expansion plans have been in the works for five years. In the past several months, revisions and tweaks regarding the patient tower building have been debated by Oak Lawn trustees because of traffic, landscaping and parking concerns.

Trustee Tom Duhig (4th), whose district includes the hospital, was miffed by news of the latest revision.

“I’m shocked that those of us who have been working with the hospital on this for over a year hear about it through a press release. I have to talk to (the village attorney) but this all may have to go before planning and development again,“ Duhig said, adding the village has been “very accommodating” to the hospital through the years.

Duhig wondered whether there was a connection between the scaled-down plan and Tuesday’s announcement that Sherman Hospital in Elgin has signed a letter of intent to be acquired by Advocate Health Care, which owns Christ.

“It’s a bit perplexing,” Duhig said. “I wonder if their acquiring a 255-bed hospital in Elgin, which I’m sure would cost several hundred million dollars, has anything to do with their saving $46 million here.”

So did not return multiple phone calls Friday.

The tower is the second phase of a $600 million expansion project at the hospital, 4440 W. 95th St.

Roate said it’s not too unusual for a hospital to scale back its original request.

“It does happen. That’s in response, once again, to the need,” he said.

The state board is expected to issue its ruling on the request Dec. 10, Roate said. Approval is needed before construction is allowed to begin, he said.

Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann and village manager Larry Deetjen did not return phone messages Friday.



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