Friday, June 14, 2024

La Salle County Board opposes OSF plans in Ottawa, ahead of state panel’s review

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The La Salle County Board wants OSF HealthCare to reconsider its plans to build a new hospital in Ottawa that also includes moving services to Peru.

Monday, the board voted 20-7 to adopt a resolution in opposition to OSF’s plans to tear down the existing hospital and transfer services such as obstetrics and intensive care units to other OSF facilities.

“We welcome the prospect of a new hospital building,” board member Arratta Znaniecki (R-Ottawa) said, “but the loss of services is simply unacceptable.”

Mike Kasap, D-La Salle, voted against the resolution. He urged the creation of an ad hoc committee to work with OSF with the aim of getting the network to modify its plans. Kasap’s motion was defeated soundly in an acclamation vote.

Joanne McNally, R-Mendota, also voted no, saying the board really had no grounds for intervening.

“I think it’s between OSF and Ottawa,” McNally said, “and it’s not between the La Salle County Board, OSF and Ottawa.”

Also voting no were Ray Gatza, R-Dimmick; Bill Brown, R-Utica; Tina Busch, R-Tonica; Gary Small, R-Utica, and David Torres, D-Oglesby.

Immediately after the vote, OSF issued a statement:

“OSF HealthCare has been informed of the La Salle County Board’s decision to oppose our plans to replace an aging facility with a new $120 million state-of-the-art hospital for the Ottawa community. While disappointing, we know that as health care needs in rural communities continue to drastically change, our plan will serve the entire region and offer a higher level of care closer to home for years to come.”

The La Salle County Board joins the cities of Ottawa and Marseilles, as government entities that have passed resolutions opposing OSF’s plans. The city of La Salle issued a letter of support for OSF’s plan.

In May, OSF persuaded board members to table a resolution opposing OSF’s plans in Ottawa. Christopher Manson, OSF’s vice president for government relations, appeared again Monday and simply asked the board to vote “no.”

Manson told the board Ottawa could ask for no stronger commitment than to get a brand new, $125 million hospital. That the new facility will feature fewer inpatient services is because outpatient procedures today dwarf inpatient procedures by a 50-to-1 ratio.

Manson’s appeal fell flat. During an extended public comment period, multiple Ottawa city officials and activists denounced OSF’s plans to reduce the number of inpatient beds to 12 while transferring critical services to other OSF units.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Mayor Robert Hasty said of the plans to move services away a growing region.

Jay McCracken, executive director of the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, said OSF’s decision would have negative economic repercussions not only for Ottawa but for the neighboring communities of Marseilles, Grand Ridge and Streator.

McCracken said he was not arguing for OSF to instead scale back operations at the recently-reopened Peru hospital “It’s not us against them” – but that OSF should provide full-service hospitals in the Ottawa and La Salle-Peru markets.

Maeanne Stevens, a former director of nursing at the Ottawa hospital, said the reduction in services would mean longer and potentially deadlier transfers for critical-care patients and expectant mothers.

Former Ottawa Mayor Bob Eschbach said OSF reneged on 2012 pledges to avoid staffing and service reductions and to ensure rapid transfer for Ottawa-area patients.

“It is time for OSF to withdraw their application and go back to the drawing board,” Eschbach said.

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