Presence Health may take over Iroquois hospital

Presence Health may take over Iroquois hospital

WATSEKA — Iroquois Memorial Hospital, Watseka, is poised to become a Catholic hospital through a pending deal with Presence Health.

Both organizations have signed a letter of intent to form an affiliation that would bring the Watseka hospital into Presence Health, the state's largest Catholic health system that also operates Presence Covenant Medical Center, Urbana, and Presence United Samaritans Medical Center, Danville.

The transaction, which requires final approval by the organization boards and a state regulatory board, is "more of an exchange than a sale," said Iroquois Memorial President and Chief Executive Officer Chuck Bohlmann.

Presence Health would pay off about $6 million in bonds for Iroquois Memorial and commit to investing about $6 million in the hospital's capital development projects, such as new equipment and facility remodeling, he said.

There will be some issues to work through to become a Catholic hospital, but none is insurmountable, according to Bohlmann.

The hospital already doesn't offer abortions, he said.

"Our mission is more closely aligned to a Catholic mission than most people realize," he added.

The transaction will take in not only the 49-bed hospital, but also include its 35-bed skilled nursing facility, home health and hospice services and primary care clinics.

If the deal is completed, this will be Presence Health's first hospital affiliation since a 2011 merger agreement between Provena Health and Resurrection Health Care that formed a new and larger health system. Iroquois Memorial began looking for a partner a year ago to help sustain local access to health care and maintain jobs, officials said.

For an independent community hospital even two or three times larger than Iroquois Memorial, sustainability will be a challenge in upcoming years, Bohlmann said.

Sandra Bruce, president and CEO of Presence Health, said Presence welcomed the opportunity to partner with the Watseka hospital.

"We believe this partnership has the potential to build on our mutual strengths and vision, resulting in high quality coordinated care for the greater community of Watseka and Iroquois County," she said in an written statement.

Bohlmann said the 97-year-old Iroquois Memorial Hospital also wants to move forward on plans to convert the hospital from the status of sole community hospital to critical access hospital, and that would mean a hospital bed reduction.

Critical access hospitals are limited to 25 beds, and Iroquois Memorial has an average daily patient census of seven to 10 patients, he said.

About half the hospital's business is Medicare patients and another 12 percent to 15 percent of its patients are in the state's Medicaid program, Bohlmann said.

"It's a reflection of a rural community," he added.

Bohlmann looks for the two boards to make a final decision in 60 says, and if they approve the Iroquois Memorial-Presence Health affiliation, for the transaction to be finalized by the end of the year.

An application with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which would also have to sign off on the agreement, hasn't yet been filed, he said.

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