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St. Mary’s criticized for closing hospital

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Gazette Staff
April 11, 2008
— The owner of Madison St. Mary’s Hospital is under fire in the south Chicago suburbs for closing a hospital there while planning to open one in Janesville.

The Chicago Tribune reported that SSM Health Care announced a week ago that it would close St. Francis Hospital in Blue Island, Ill., because it was losing money due to a flood of uninsured patients.


SSM Health Care also is the parent company of St. Mary’s.


Mercy Health System officials in Janesville were quick to pick up on the news Thursday and to point it out to reporters.


“The timing of the announcement, with the new hospital located in a more prosperous region, provided a new opportunity for some to criticize SSM Health Care’s decision to close St. Francis,” according to the Chicago Tribune.


St. Francis is projected to lose $20 million this year.


St. Francis is a 401-bed hospital owned by the St. Louis-based SSM, described on the St. Francis Web site as “one of the nation’s largest Catholic health care systems.”


St. Francis completed a $34 million expansion in 2003.


Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., who has worked to keep St. Francis open, reacted to the Janesville news by saying SSM should have its tax-exempt status revoked, the Tribune reported.


In an internal memo obtained by the Tribune, SSM’s chief executive, Sister Mary Jean Ryan, described the timing of the Janesville announcement as “difficult.”


“However, the Janesville hospital has been in the planning stages for years, and capital for the project was approved by SSM Health Care in July of 2007,” Ryan’s memo states, according to the Tribune.


SSM said it tried three years ago to build a new hospital in the more affluent Chicago suburb of Orland Park as a way to mitigate the company’s losses in Blue Island.


The Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board rejected the proposal, saying Orland Park had excess hospital beds.


Wisconsin has no oversight of hospital siting. Its former certificate-of-need program was dumped in the late 1980s, said Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit.


Rush suggested that if an Orlando Park hospital could have staved off the St. Francis closing, then a new hospital in Janesville could serve the same purpose.



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