HSHS St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital has filed an objection with the state board that is reviewing Sarah Bush Lincoln's plan for a new $35 million Bonutti Clinic, saying the facility would duplicate services already performed at the hospital.
Sarah Bush Lincoln has submitted a "Certificate of Need" application with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board for a project that would replace the aging SBL Bonutti Clinic at 1303 Evergreen St. with a 65,400-square-foot building that it said will accommodate services now housed in SBL buildings in Effingham.
SBL had hoped to start construction by October, but St. Anthony's objection is likely to delay that by at least a couple months, according to SBL President and CEO Jerry Esker.
“I am a little disappointed and surprised that anyone is resisting a $35 million project coming into the community and the jobs that creates,” Esker said.
"We are not opposed to them replacing their building," countered St. Anthony's President and CEO Theresa Rutherford. "We all know what it's like to have older facilities that you need to replace in order to keep a modern structure and site. But we believe that building is way too large, that it's a much more expansive building than they seem to need. And we also have questions about the redundancy of services."
The objection filed by St. Anthony's cites the example of scans that SBL is proposing.
“It would appear that the applicant plans to redirect patient volume from HSHS St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital for both CT Scan and Ultrasound,” says the objection. “As required by the Review Board's rules, the applicant should be required to submit physician referral letters for these services in order for the Review Board and the community to assess the impact of this proposed project on existing care providers.”
The review board has scheduled a Sept. 2 public hearing at the Thelma Keller Convention Center, according to Esker.
Esker said adding CT scans to the Bonutti site is, “Simply to round out the full scope of imaging services. This is a convenience issue for the patients who already go to Bonutti Clinic, already see those providers there, already go to our walk-in clinic and go to our primary care physicians. It's a patient convenience issue for CT. Everything else is already being offered by Sarah Bush Lincoln in Effingham and has been for quite some time.”
Rutherford said that taking business away from St. Anthony's threatens the hospital's ability to provide an array of services and contributions to the community.
“We provide services to this community … things like a 24/7, 365 days per year emergency room,” she said. “We provided last year alone over $11 million in community benefit back to the community. We want to be able to continue to do that. We also want to assure our colleagues can continue to have work moving forward and that we can continue to support people who are already employed within our community.”
“There are many programs that we support within this community that come because of the business we are able to do in this community and surrounding areas,” Rutherford added. “Like the support we give to Crisis Nursery. The work we do with Catholic Charities around medication assistance. Our work with the food pantries. The general voucher program where people are able to get their dental care done when they maybe can't afford it on their own.”
"We're consolidating space,” Esker said. “One of their issues is that the building's large. Well, the truth is we're growing at a pretty rapid pace in Effingham and we need to accommodate that growth. What this does is provide opportunities for us to continue to grow that service and have a significant impact on the Effingham economy.
“Dr. Bonutti himself draws the large majority of his patients from all around the state and actually multiple states. Those people come to Effingham for their appointments. They stay in hotels, they eat in area restaurants. We want to have a building that showcases Effingham and showcases the services we provide there.”
Rutherford said there is room for both providers.
“We believe we can both continue to be productive and contribute to this community,” Rutherford said. “We just have questions about the size and redundancy of services.”