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Board again turns down Mercy

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Jim Leute
September 13, 2012

— An Illinois planning board has once again denied Mercy Health System's request to build a $115 million, 70-bed hospital in Crystal Lake, Ill.

Tuesday's 6-3 denial by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board is the third in the last 15 months for the project on land Mercy owns at Three Oaks Road and Route 31.

Rich Gruber, Mercy's vice president of community advocacy, said the Janesville-based health system will review its options for a project that has been proposed in various incarnations for nearly a decade.

In June 2011, the board denied Mercy a certificate of need for a $200 million, 128-bed hospital and clinic at the site.

As requested by the board, Mercy scaled back its proposal and came forward with plans for the 70-bed, $115 million facility. The board denied that project in December 2011.

In June 2011 and again in December 2011, the board took similar actions on a proposal from Centegra Health System, which wanted to build a $233 million, 128-bed hospital in Huntley, Ill., less than 10 miles from Mercy's Crystal Lake site.

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

Mercy and Centegra officials appealed to an administrative law judge to review the board's December decisions.

The judge recommended that the review board take another look at both plans because of clerical filing errors.

In July, the board approved plans for the Centegra facility in Huntley and scheduled Mercy for Tuesday's hearing.

Gruber said the appeal process continues, as the board's vote Tuesday will now return to the administrative judge, who will make a final decision and send it back to the board again.

Gruber said the merits of Mercy's project still are strong, and he looks forward to making Mercy's case again to the board, hopefully by the end of this year.

On a separate track, Mercy and two other Illinois-based systems have filed lawsuits challenging the board's approval of Centegra's certificate of need, according to the Northwest Herald.

Mercy's complaint, the newspaper reported, alleges that the board's approval was an "arbitrary and capricious" decision that ran contrary to the evidence presented and to state criteria for siting hospitals.



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