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State board says no to Islam-friendly surgicenter in Orland Park

Site former Plunkett Furniture store thnow has multiple businesses it OrlPark Illinois Wednesday May 15 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times

Site of the former Plunkett Furniture store that now has multiple businesses in it in Orland Park, Illinois, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Muslims started charity clinic in Maryland

The backers of the proposed Preferred Surgicenter in Orland Park say they know of no existing surgery center or hospital in Illinois that offers special provisions for Muslims.

And legal counsel Joseph Hylak-Reinholtz says a reporter for a nationwide magazine about surgical centers told him she knew of no similar surgery center in the United States.

But in suburban Washington, D.C., the Muslim Community Center of Silver Spring, Md., operates an “MCC Medical Clinic” aimed at serving “adults with no or little income, having no or insufficient health care coverage, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin or sex.” This opened in 2003 as a one-examination-room free primary-care facility. Since then, it has grown to a six-room operation with 11,000 patient visits in the past 12 months, according to its website.

The Maryland clinic’s executive director, Dr. Azad Ejaz, said that “a large percentage of our patients and a majority of our health care providers come from faiths other than Islam.” Among its donors is Catholic Charities USA, whose gifts allowed the center to start providing surgical services.

Updated: June 18, 2013 7:22AM



BOLINGBROOK — A state regulatory board indicated it plans to reject a plan to build a Muslim-friendly surgery center in southwest suburban Orland Park.

But several board members said they sympathize with a problem they hadn’t realized exists: the discomfort that followers of Islam — especially modesty-conscious Muslim women — feel about using any of the existing hospitals, urgent-care centers and surgery centers in the Chicago area.

And proponents say they have not given up on the project.

Naser Rustom, a Muslim Arab-American, has asked the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board to approve a “certificate of need” for a $5.5 million 11,000-square-foot “ambulatory surgical treatment center” with five operating rooms in the former Plunkett’s Furniture store building adjacent to Orland Square Shopping Center.

Meeting in Bolingbrook on Tuesday, the board voted unanimously, with one member absent, that it “intends to reject” the application.

The issue will come back to the board for a final decision in June or August.

Wearing a modesty scarf over her hair, Gihad Ali of the Arab-American Action Network told the board that after her mother was diagnosed with cancer, her mother was appalled that when she went to a hospital for treatments, male medical personnel and other patients could see her in various stages of undress. She also had to miss many of her normal five-times-a-day prayers because the hospital had no facilities for the ceremonial washing needed beforehand, she said.

While the Bible was available in hospital rooms, Ali said, there was no prayer rug.

“I should not have to leave my religion at the door in order to receive health care services.”

Rustom said his Preferred Surgicenter would be “the first health care facility in Illinois designed to accommodate the special needs of Muslim-Americans” but would take Muslim and non-Muslim patients alike.

Health issues

Robin Fina, who would have been manager of the center, said the center would have had private post-surgery recovery rooms to safeguard patient modesty, would use more modest hospital gowns, and would include washing basins and a prayer room.

She said the center also would try to connect with female surgeons and hire female staff members to treat female patients, avoiding the Muslim ban against men seeing naked women who are not their wives. It also would try to hire staff members who speak Arabic and the languages spoken by recent immigrants from places such as Iran and Pakistan.

Joseph Hylak-Reinholtz, the project’s attorney, said two studies concluded that Muslim-Americans have worse health than non-Muslims because of reluctance to go to health care facilities.

Board member Alan Greiman of Wilmette, who is a judge, asked whether surgeons would stop in mid-surgery when a time of prayer came.

Hylak-Reinholtz said they would not stop.

Greiman also asked whether Islamic “Sharia law” would trump state and federal laws when the staff made decisions.

Hylak-Reinholtz said state and federal law would always prevail. For example, he said, male and female patients would have to use the same waiting room because having “separate but equal” waiting rooms probably would be illegal under American civil rights law. In any case, the attorney said, different Islamic nations and sects interpret parts of Sharia law differently.

Several board members noted that according to an analysis by the board staff, the Orland Park area already has enough surgery providers to handle all business in that area. It said that would hurt existing business and be an unwise use of health care dollars. The staff also concluded that Rustom did not meet all necessary financial standards.

“You would be in a service area that doesn’t really need your services,” said board member James Burden, a physician from Glenview.

Parallels to 1900?

Non-voting board member David Carvalho, deputy director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said he sees parallels to a situation that could have arisen 100 years ago if there had been such a state board then. He imagined that a group of Roman Catholics had come to the board and argued that Catholics need a hospital of their own in Chicago. The owners of Northwestern Hospital had argued that Northwestern already was serving all patients available.

Board member Philip Bradley of Springfield said that if this were 1900 and a proposal to build the first Catholic hospital failed to meet as many technical requirements as Preferred Surgicenter does, he would vote “no” on that, too.

“I don’t think it serves any group to tell them, ‘We want you to have a facility but you have to accept that it is substandard,’ ” Bradley said.

Board member Richard Sewell of Chicago said that with more Muslims than Jews in the Chicago area, market forces eventually will require existing facilities to accommodate Muslim needs or will induce a Muslim-friendly facility to open in some area where there are not so many existing facilities.

Hylak-Reinholtz said Wednesday that his client intends to prove that the facility is needed when the issue comes back before the board in June or August.



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