Two-hospital Centegra Health System, Woodstock, Ill., filed documents in support of its civil lawsuit seeking to overturn the certificate of need for a new $81 million medical center in Crystal Lake, Ill., by Mercy Health System, Janesville, Wis. A Thursday hearing has been scheduled. The CON was granted in April 2004 by the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which subsequently was dissolved by the state governor and reconstituted with new appointees after allegations of influence peddling. The Centegra documents included an affidavit by Pamela Meyer Davis, president and chief executive officer at Edward Health Services Corp., Naperville, Ill. Davis and another Edward executive filed a whistle-blower lawsuit in May 2004 alleging that the planning board denied the system's application for a new hospital because Davis refused to hire a politically connected construction company and another firm for the project. In the affidavit for Centegra, Davis said a lobbyist who helped Mercy win its CON was among the people who advised her to hire the construction company, Kiferbaum Construction Corp., because of its clout with the board. Centegra alleged that Mercy had struck a deal with Kiferbaum and joined in furthering the company's scheme to win the Edward contract.
In a statement, Mercy Vice President Barbara Bortner said the system would limit its comments because of the ongoing litigation. "We can say, however, that Mercy's actions concerning the CON were lawful and no one from Mercy had any improper or ex parte communications with any member of the CON board," Bortner said. Centegra's suit, filed in May 2004 in McHenry County Circuit Court, Woodstock, Ill., alleged that inappropriate communication between board members and Mercy officials tainted the CON process. A trial has not been scheduled. The Mercy project is waiting for local permits and approvals. Meanwhile, Davis' whistle-blower suit is pending and remains sealed. Attorneys Ronald Osman and Robin Potter, who represent Davis, declined to comment on the case. The U.S. attorney's office in Chicago is conducting an ongoing investigation into the planning board's behavior. -- by Mark Taylor