Mercy Health System gets another chance in Illinois
BOLINGBROOK, ILL Shot down twice, Mercy Health System officials will get a third chance to make their case for building a new hospital and clinic in Crystal Lake, Ill.
On Tuesday, the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board agreed to reconsider Mercy's proposal, most likely at a meeting in September.
Mercy has been trying for nearly a decade to get board permission to build on land it owns on Three Oaks Road and Route 31.
In December, the board denied Mercy's plan for the 70-bed, $115 million project. In June, the same board voted its intention to deny Mercy a certificate of need for a $200 million, 128-bed hospital and clinic.
The certificate of need is required for construction.
"We listened to what the board said," said Rich Gruber, Mercy's vice president of community advocacy. "They said, 'Make it smaller, make it smarter, make it better.'
"We did that, and it really is reflective of the trend that's going on in health care."
In June and again in December, the board took similar actions on a proposal from Centegra Health System, which wanted to build a $233 million, 128-bed hospital in Huntley, Ill., less than 10 miles from Mercy's Crystal Lake site.
In each of its rulings on Mercy and Centegra, the board had concerns about the effect of the new facilities on existing providers.
Mercy officials have said the growing medical needs in the congested McHenry County warrant their project. Both they and Centegra officials asked an administrative hearing officer to review the board's December decisions.
The administrative law judge recommended that the review board take another look at both plans because of clerical filing errors by an opponent of both plans, according to the Northwest Herald.
In a reversal of its previous decision, the board on Tuesday approved plans for the Centegra facility in Huntley.
Gruber said Mercy wants the same opportunity as Centegra.
He said he's uncertain how the board will rule in September but said Mercy is pleased to have another chance to make its case.
"All we can do is take it day by day," he said. "I have no idea what the board will do in September."
On Tuesday, the board made a decision on the health care needs of 25,000 people in Huntley, he said. In September, it will consider the needs of up to 200,000 people that the Mercy facility would serve in McHenry County, he said.
"There's room for all of us," Gruber said. "We are still committed. In fact, we've never relinquished our commitment to the folks in McHenry County."
This is Mercy's third proposal for a hospital in McHenry County.
In 2003, it advanced an $81 million hospital and clinic on its 16-acre site. The proposal moved forward before being derailed when the board overseeing its approval became embroiled in a kickback scandal involving the Mercy project but not Mercy officials.