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Second hearing slated for input on hospital’s relocation

Illinois regulators will hold a second public hearing to give residents a chance to express their opinions about HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s plan to build a replacement facility in O’Fallon.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board will hold the hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 2235 Bond Ave., East St. Louis.

Sign-in to provide public testimony will be from 4:30 to 5 p.m. The public hearing will begin at 5 p.m. and will conclude at 7.

Courtney Avery, administrator for the review board, previously said that the board felt that a second hearing was needed because many people did not get a chance to speak at an Oct. 2 hearing regarding the project.

St. Elizabeth’s has filed for approval from the state to build a new $253.5 million hospital in O’Fallon, seven miles away from its current campus in downtown Belleville. The city of Belleville, the Belleville Chamber of Commerce and two Belleville school districts have all publicly stated opposition as have some leaders in nearby towns.

However, more than 500 support letters from patients, community and business leaders, and healthcare advocates have also been submitted to the Review Board and posted publicly on its site,

The project cannot move forward without a Certificate of Need, which must be approved by the state’s Review Board at a vote on Dec. 16.

Dr. Shelley Harris, the chief nursing officer of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, spoke about the hospital’s plans to build a new, 144-bed facility at Green Mount Road and Interstate 64 in O’Fallon, during a Realtors breakfast in mid-October. She encouraged those attending to get behind the project.

St. Elizabeth’s is operated as part of the Hospital Sisters Health System and was founded in the 1870s in Belleville at a time when that community was the population hub for the region, Harris said. The present building is almost 60 years old and is outdated for much of today’s technology.

“It was built in the 1950s and designed for 1950s care,” Harris told the audience. “Our brick and mortar have a lot of iron and I-beams and with all those wonderful handheld devices, it is really difficult to get good service. Reception is a huge issue and we’re not taking advantage of all the technology that’s out there.”

The new hospital will be smaller than the current one and have fewer beds, reflective of the fact that so much of modern-day medicine is done on outpatient basis, she said.

She addressed the perception that the hospital is completely moving from downtown.

“We are not abandoning Belleville,” Harris said. “There is not going to be a big crater left where St. Elizabeth’s is now.”

The hospital is working with community planners on ways to “re-envision use” of the 14 acres — and 1 million square feet — of space that would be left behind, and has said it welcomes additional input.

Three medical office buildings will remain as they are in Belleville, she said, providing such services as a same-day ambulatory clinic, physical therapy, the Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation clinic and doctors’ offices. Information technology, educators, business offices and other key jobs would also remain.

The new location is part of what’s becoming the “health-care highway,” Harris said, noting that it’s a straight shot into the larger hospitals in St. Louis.

The new location would also move St. Elizabeth’s closer to the community hospitals that refer patients, such as HSHS affiliate hospitals St. Joseph’s in Highland and St. Joseph’s in Breese, as well as Scott Air Force Base, Greenville Regional Hospital and Washington County Hospital.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The location of the Nov. 18 public hearing was originally slated to be Belleville West High School but was subsequently changed, a move that came too late to be noted for the version of the story that ran in our November print edition.

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