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State board stands by its approval of Centegra's Huntley hospital

Published: Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 1:13 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 12:19 a.m. CDT

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HUNTLEY – A state board recently reaffirmed its support for Centegra Health System’s Huntley hospital, telling a Will County judge that Centegra met nearly all of the state’s criteria for hospital approval.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board delivered its response Wednesday to Will County Judge Bobbi Petrungaro, who in a court order earlier this summer told the board to explain why it reversed course and approved a permit for Centegra’s $233 million Huntley project without explanation.

The board argued in the response that Centegra was in “substantial conformance” with the board’s approval standards, meeting 17 of the board’s 20 requirements based upon a review by the board’s staff at the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The 17 criteria included compliance on the board’s financial and economic standards and occupancy standards for hospital services such as medical, surgical, pediatric and intensive care.

The three standards not met included need in McHenry County for the proposed project, and unnecessary duplication of health care and clinical services in the area.

“The board determined that the three noncompliant criteria ... did not outweigh the positive aspects of this project,” the board wrote in its response.

The board’s response now sets the stage for a hearing in Petrungaro’s chambers on whether the board’s approval should be appealed. Centegra’s regional competitors, including Mercy Health System, Advocate Health Care and Sherman Health, all filed suit asking for an appeal.

Centegra had approached the board three times for approval before the review board reversed its decision in July 2012.

A hearing date regarding the lawsuit has not been determined.

In its six-page response, the board also defended some of the criteria that the board’s staff determined Centegra had not met.

On need, the board wrote that based upon staff reviews from June 2011 to July 2012 the need for medical surgical and intensive care units was increasing in McHenry County.

The board also disagreed with staff that the Centegra project would unnecessarily duplicate hospital services.

Existing facilities 30 and 45 minutes from the proposed Huntley location were operating under target occupancy, but board members concluded that Centegra’s 128-bed hospital would improve access to hospital services and create a more comprehensive health care delivery system in the county.

Centegra’s proposed number of medical surgical beds, intensive care units and obstetric beds for the Huntley hospital also fell within the number of calculated beds needed in the county based upon staff recommendations and an October 2011 inventory update, the board wrote.

Susan Milford, Centegra’s senior vice president for strategy and development, said that the board’s response shows continued confidence and support for the Huntley project.

“We are very pleased with the board’s reaffirmation of the strength of this project and its benefit to the people of our community,” Milford said. “We look forward to the judge upholding the [board’s] decision to approve Centegra Hospital – Huntley.”

One of Centegra’s competitors, however, withheld reaction to the board’s response. Mercy Vice President Richard Gruber said that Mercy officials are still reviewing the board’s response as they look ahead to the hearing in Will County.

“We will argue our case in front of the judge when the opportunity affords itself,” Gruber said. “The attention is on the next step of the process, which will be the hearing.”

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