Updated: Carle gets OK to expand
NORMAL — Carle Foundation Hospital has the go-ahead from a state board to expand, over the objections of rival hospital Presence Covenant Medical Center.
Ask Tom Kacich if this is a good thing here
The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, meeting in Normal Wednesday, voted 7-1 to permit Carle to finish ninth-story tower space to add 48 more medical-surgical beds.
The vote clears the way for construction to begin in the fall. The work is expected to be completed in early 2016, Carle spokeswoman Jennifer Hendricks-Kaufmann said.
The state board has oversight on certain medical construction projects in the state, and last month its members gave Carle's expansion project an "intent to deny" on a 4-2 vote in favor. Five votes are needed for approval.
Carle was required to show its expansion is needed in this area, a contention vigorously opposed by Covenant officials, who predicted Carle's new beds will largely be filled by patients drawn away from Covenant.
At the Wednesday hearing, 10 of the 15 people who testified spoke in favor of Carle, and they included some of its patients and area hospital officials who say they rely on that hospital and its doctors for care not available in their area.
Carle contends it's currently on track to accept 5,000 transfers from other regional hospitals this year, and wants to be sure the beds are available for the patients being sent to its hospital for specialized care needs.
Carle accepted 4,570 transfers last year, with 1,200 of them coming from the two Presence Health hospitals in Urbana and Danville, Stephanie Beever, Carle senior vice president for system development, said.
Those Presence Health transfers weren't just coming to Carle's trauma center, either, according to Beever. Of the 1,200 coming from Covenant and United Samaritans, 14 percent were trauma-related, and 82 percent of the patients needed a medical-surgical bed, she said.
"The beds that we're asking for are needed today," Carle CEO Dr. James Leonard said.
Dr. Krishnarao Tangella, medical director of Covenant and Presence United Samaritans Medical Center, said Christie Clinic doctors have privileges at both Carle and Presence hospitals to give patients a choice, but Carle doesn't offer the same choice to its own patients.
"Carle physicians only admit to Carle facilities, with the only exception being psychiatry," he said.
Questioned by board members about whether Carle requires its physicians to admit their patients only to Carle, Leonard and Beever both said there isn't any such policy.
Janelle Reilly, chief operating officer of Covenant's parent system, Presence Health, said the addition of beds at Carle is an unnecessary duplication of service in the area. And, she said, adding acute care patient beds is contrary to national and regional trends showing shifts to care in outpatient settings.
"The concentration of a high number of acute care beds at a single facility could well result in a single surviving acute care provider in the region," she warned.
Dr. Jared Rogers, the interim CEO of Covenant and United Samaritans medical centers, said expanding Carle "at the expense of other hospitals" will deprive the community of a choice in health care.
"Carle is not offering any new service to patients, only new costs to pay for health care," he said.
After the board voted, Rogers extended a handshake to Leonard and said Covenant will continue to pursue its own interests.
Covenant won't put up any barriers to working cooperatively with Carle, he said.
Rogers also made it clear patients will continue to have a choice of hospitals in this area.
"We definitely want to continue as a full-service hospital, and we will continue as a full-service hospital," he said.
Leonard said he views Covenant's position as "a legitimate disagreement and concern on their part."
"All we were doing is following our plans," he said. "It's not about Presence. It's never been about them."
Going forward, Carle intends to partner with many health care and behavioral health providers in the area, Leonard said, and a larger group of providers to meet community needs is better than a smaller one.
Carle's $17.7 million expansion will boost its number of medical-surgical beds from 212 to 260 and its total licensed bed capacity to 393.