The new chairman of Illinois' certificate-of-need agency put hospital officials seeking CON approval for new hospital projects on notice last week.
"It's a certificate of need, not a certificate of convenience," said Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board Chairman Glenn Poshard. A former congressman, Poshard was appointed this summer by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to head the reconstituted board after he terminated its nine members in the wake of a scandal involving alleged extortion and a subsequent federal investigation.
The board denied CON approval to three suburban Chicago-area hospital projects proposed by Naperville-based Edward Health System, Oak Brook-based Advocate Health Care and Blue Island-based St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers, which sought to build hospitals in Plainfield, Tinley Park and Orland Park, respectively. The systems planned to spend a total of nearly $600 million to construct the hospitals in fast-growing, affluent suburban areas where competing hospitals already exist.
Community groups, unions and the existing area hospitals opposed the proposals. Poshard and the other four board members listened to the opponents and questioned the need for new hospitals when existing beds go empty and healthcare costs are skyrocketing. The competing hospitals said they would lose millions of dollars to the new hospitals.
However, at the conclusion of the six-hour meeting, the board surprised many by granting approval to Hinsdale, Ill.-based Adventist Health System Midwest Region to build a $152 million, 138-bed hospital in Bolingbrook on a site where it currently operates an emergency-services center and a medical office building.
Unlike the other proposals, the board said the Bolingbrook plan faced no opposition. Adventist President and Chief Executive Officer Ernie Sadau said the system, which already operates hospitals in Hinsdale and Glendale Heights, was "honored that the board saw a need for it." Sadau said Adventist had reserved cash for about half of the project cost and intends to seek debt financing for the remainder.
Advocate President and CEO James Skogsbergh and St. Francis President Colleen Kannaday said they would return to present their proposals to the board again.