Mercyhealth wants to build a 13-bed "micro-hospital" in Crystal Lake, the system's second pitch in six years to open a facility in the far northwest suburb.
The $81.7 million hospital would not add any patient beds to the area, a crucial point, because many medical centers statewide are saddled with vacant beds.
Instead, Mercyhealth plans to shift 11 medical-surgical beds (the most common in a hospital) and two intensive-care beds from its hospital in Harvard to the one proposed in Crystal Lake, according to an application filed with state regulators.
"We are proposing a very simple idea," Mercyhealth President and CEO Javon Bea said in a statement. "Building a very small 13-bed micro-hospital to primarily serve those patients who are coming in for a simple procedure and may need to stay overnight."
Micro-hospitals are popping up across the country, but have yet to gain steam in the Chicago area. The Crystal Lake hospital would be built on vacant land at the southeast corner of State Route 31 and Three Oaks Road.
Many hospitals nationwide have been ditching plans for big hospitals in favor of outpatient clinics and surgical centers, which has fueled a wave of emptier medical centers. Advances in technology mean patients don't need to be hospitalized as much. And under federal health reform, insurers are paying doctors to focus on prevention and treat patients in the least expensive place, which often is an outpatient facility.
This all could change under the Trump administration, which is working to overhaul his predecessor's landmark health care law, known as Obamacare.
Mercyhealth, a five-hospital system in Wisconsin and Illinois, hopes its downsized plans will finally make the cut. The Illinois Health Facilities & Services Review Board, which decides the fate of health care projects to prevent duplicating services, twice rejected Mercy's last hospital proposal, a $115 million facility, in 2011 and 2012.
Instead, the board approved rival Centegra Health System's bid for a new hospital in Huntley that opened in 2016. The drama unfolded in court after Mercyhealth and Advocate Health Care sued.
Plans for the micro-hospital include two operating rooms and a 24-hour emergency room. Mercyhealth is focusing on patients who now use the system for outpatient care, and for the more than 7,500 Crystal Lake residents on Medicaid, the application said.
In 2016, more than 36 percent of the health system's patients in McHenry County, which includes Crystal Lake, were on Medicaid.
The health system said the project would address a lack of hospital care for poor patients in particular, and a growing baby boomer population that goes elsewhere for care. Only 35 percent of patients in McHenry County stay in the area for treatment, the application said.
Mercyhealth also plans to recruit more doctors to address a shortage. The system filed a separate application for a $23.8 million medical office building that would be connected to the new hospital. The proposed outpatient site would have 37 exam rooms and space for 15 doctors, most of whom would be specialists, the application said.
If approved, both the hospital and outpatient building are projected to be complete by late 2020.
"Could 13 beds be this hospital system's lucky number?" originally appeared in Crain's Chicago Business.