Two Midwest religious orders issued very different announcements yesterday. St. Louis-based SSM Health Care announced its hopes to build a 130-bed hospital on a 66-acre parcel purchased in 1991 in suburban Chicago's Orland Park, Ill. That hospital would complement its St. Francis Hospital and Health Center in Blue Island, Ill. If approved by the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, construction would begin in 2004 and the facility would open by 2007.
The news was more somber from Ancilla Systems spokesman Thomas Handy. After more than 100 years in the acute-care hospital business, Donaldson, Ind.-based Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, the religious sponsor of Hobart, Ind.-based Ancilla, said it would sell its last hospital, St. Mary's Hospital of East St. Louis (Ill.), for an undisclosed price.
The decision to sell financially troubled St. Mary's was spurred by $28 million in losses incurred over the last five years by the Poor Handmaids, which at one time owned eight hospitals in poor neighborhoods of Midwest cities. Handy said Ancilla has signed a memorandum of understanding to sell St. Mary's to not-for-profit Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation.
Foundation CEO Robert Klutts said the hospital will be renamed Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital after a prominent state senator. "We're hoping, with economies of scale and greater efficiency, to get the hospital to break even. We want to maintain this hospital as a community service and avoid duplications," Klutts said.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the state Department of Public Aid will contribute $3.9 million to support hospital services at the former St. Mary's. -- by Mark Taylor