ROCKFORD, ILL.

When someone on your home team does well, you cheer them on from the sidelines.

Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag used the sports metaphor to describe his reaction to Mercyhealth’s new $505 million hospital and clinic set to open on the north side of Rockford, Illinois, on Saturday, Jan. 5.

Mercyhealth officials said the new hospital 34 minutes from Janesville will give Rock County residents convenient access to specialized care.

And Mercyhealth CEO Javon Bea announced Friday that money left over from the Rockford project will be used to expand surgical facilities at the health system’s Janesville hospital.

Watching the Janesville-based organization take on a significant capital project speaks to the the “great business atmosphere” in Janesville that helped cultivate the hospital’s success, Freitag said.

The new hospital is the latest—and most expensive—expansion project the Janesville-based Mercyhealth system has seen since crossing the Illinois border in 2015.

Mercyhealth’s Riverside Campus is a six-story, 563,000-square-foot facility on 263 acres off Interstate 90/39. It sits 29 miles—about a 34-minute drive—from Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville.

The campus consists of Mercyhealth Physician Clinic-Riverside adjacent to Javon Bea Hospital-Riverside, named after the health system’s CEO.

To keep Mercyhealth’s Janesville hospital up to speed, Mercyhealth’s board of directors approved Friday a plan to expand Mercy Terrace on the Janesville campus, Bea told The Gazette.

The expansion will allow space for new hybrid surgical suites, radiographic suites and nuclear medicine, Bea said.

The goal is to offer the same adult surgical services in Janesville as at the new hospital in Rockford so Mercyhealth’s operating teams can operate in both facilities, Bea said.

Hybrid surgical suites cut down on patient transfer by allowing multiple operations to be performed in one room. For example, if a patient is receiving a stent in his heart and something goes wrong to where he needs open-heart surgery, doctors can perform the open-heart surgery without having to move the patient, Bea said.

These services will be offered at the Javon Bea Hospital-Riverside once it opens and will eventually be offered in Janesville. Mercyhealth’s architects already have begun designing the Mercy Terrace expansion, Bea said.

Funding for the Janesville expansion comes from leftover money that was supposed to go toward the Rockford hospital project. To finance the new hospital, Mercyhealth received a 30-year fixed interest rate of about 3 percent, which is shockingly low, Bea said.

The projects will not lead to increased costs for patients, largely because of the projects’ low interest rates, Bea said.

Mercyhealth in Janesville has never had enough patients to justify adding advanced pediatric specialties at its hospital campus. The merger with Rockford Health System gives Mercyhealth access to women’s and children’s health services that were not available before, Bea said.

The new Rockford hospital will include a 52-bed neonatal intensive care unit with 55 pediatric specialists covering 29 pediatric specialties. It will serve as the designated regional perinatal center for 11 Illinois counties and four Wisconsin counties, including Rock County, Bea said.

Mothers in Rock County who need specialized obstetric services or anticipate a high-risk pregnancy will now be referred to the Javon Bea Hospital-Riverside, which is closer to and easier to access from Rock County than Madison hospitals, Bea said.

As of now, Rock County families needing specialized pediatric and perinatal services often get referred to Madison hospitals, Bea said.

The new hospital has brought on 500 new employees with the expectation of adding more in the future. Freitag said he is not concerned about the new hospital siphoning jobs from Rock County because there are more jobs available in the county now than there are people to fill them.

“I am not concerned about keeping people gainfully employed (in Janesville),” Freitag said.

Serving both southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois has allowed Mercyhealth to increase its offerings.

“You can’t have all things in any one location,” Bea said. “But when you have one bigger market, one bigger geographical service area for patients, it allows us as one integrated health system to have it all.”

Reporter - Milton, Edgerton, Albany, Brodhead, Evansville, Footville, Orfordville, health

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