Sunday, April 6, 2008
Posted on Sat, Apr. 05, 2008reprint or license print email Digg it del.icio.us AIM Mayor: Hospital merger will cost East St. Louis 120 jobs
East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. talks about the upcoming Illinois Health Facility Planning Board meeting and the city's effort to keep Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital open.
Opponents of hospital closing question claims that it's losing millions
BY BETH HUNDSDORFER
EAST ST. LOUIS --East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. warned Friday that 120 jobs will be lost in the city if Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital merges services with Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville. He also said the city will lose a health care provider to an underserved population.
The mayor held a news conference Friday to encourage people to travel to Springfield to lobby the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board to keep Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital a full-service medical facility.
Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation, which operates Kenneth Hall and Touchette, disputed Park's statement on the number of jobs lost, saying the loss would be about 50, according to Ronda Sauget, spokeswoman for the foundation.
The foundation has asked the state board to allow it to maintain Kenneth Hall's emergency room and mental health unit and discontinue other services. The board is scheduled to decide on Tuesday whether to merge services at Touchette and Kenneth Hall.
"It's the wrong time to eliminate a hospital in East St. Louis," Parks said. "It's the wrong way to leave a community."
The merger would eliminate duplicate services and allow both hospitals to remain financially viable, the foundation has said.
"Our goal is to build a sustained health care system," Sauget said. "We want to offer specialized services, not duplicate services. We want to bring more specialists to the area, and this move will allow us to do that."
Parks proposed that the foundation sell Kenneth Hall to Pro Team, a management team.
The foundation tried to contact Pro Team after receiving a letter, Sauget said, but the number on the computer-generated letterhead was disconnected. The foundation sent a letter to Pro Team's post office box, asking for a list of its officers, a copy of its incorporation records and proof it could do business in Illinois, but didn't receive a response, she said.
A recently released report by the Health Facilities Planning Board states: "There is no potential, viable buyer for (Kenneth Hall). The report also states: "There had been an inquiry but it was determined that the entity was not a viable buyer. In addition, the facility was too close to financial dissolution for a purchase to occur at this time."
Parks suggested the foundation turn the hospital over to the state until a buyer comes along, adding, "If you can't operate it at a profit, let someone else try."
Sauget said, "If the state took over, we would be in the same situation -- two hospitals offering duplicate services and competing for a declining population."
Kenneth Hall expected a loss of $2.7 million in 2007, resulting in a loss of $4.7 million over the past four years, according to the state agency report.
The number of patients accessing health care in the area is declining, said Sauget, but not because Kenneth Hall patients are being turned away.
"I think people are confused. They don't know what's closing and what's staying open," she said, adding the hospital may be suffering some ill will because of the fight over downsizing services at Kenneth Hall.
Parks said if Kenneth Hall closed, other investors would continue to develop plans for a smaller, state-of-the-art hospital in East St. Louis.
"We are fighting for health care," Parks said. "We are fighting for justice."
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at email@example.com or 239-2570.