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Mercy appeals denial of Crystal Lake site

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JAMES P. LEUTE
January 26, 2012
— A Mercy Health System official said the medical needs in a northern Illinois county have not disappeared, and neither will the Janesville-based provider that's repeatedly been denied approval to build a new hospital and clinic in Crystal Lake, Ill.

Mercy has asked an administrative hearing officer to decide whether to uphold a state regulatory board's decision against its construction in the McHenry County community of Crystal Lake.


In December, the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board denied Mercy's appeal for the 70-bed, $115 million project. In June, the same board voted its intention to deny a certificate of need for a $200 million, 128-bed hospital and clinic that Mercy wanted to build on land it owns in Crystal Lake.


The certificate of need is required for construction.


In June and again in December, the board took similar action on a plan from Centegra Health System, which wants to build a $233 million, 128-bed hospital in Huntley, less than 10 miles from Mercy's Crystal Lake site.


Centegra, too, has asked for administrative review of the board's decision.


In each of its four rulings on Mercy and Centegra, the board expressed concerns about the effect of the new facilities on existing providers.


Rich Gruber, Mercy's vice president of community advocacy, said the medical needs of McHenry County residents, particularly in the Crystal Lake area, have grown more acute since Mercy first proposed a facility for the area in 2003.


"The population has grown and changed, and the infrastructure has just not kept up," he said. "The need for acute and specialized care that we are proposing is even more significant now.


"We're committed to serving the good citizens of Crystal Lake. Always have been, always will be."


The hearing officer will review the proceedings of both applications and determine if the board acted outside its jurisdiction in making its decisions.


Gruber said the officer could sustain the board's decision or send it back to the board for reconsideration.


If the board's decision is upheld, Gruber said Mercy has three options.


"We could appeal it in circuit court, or we could reapply with a different project, which isn't out of the question," he said. "Or, we could walk away, which is most definitely out of the question.


"We're committed."



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