Below is the written response sent to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, the oversight board concerning the facility closures, held January 27, 2022.
The League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford is deeply concerned about the proposed closure of Mercy Healthcare’s Westside Rockton Road Campus. The League of Women Voters of the US position on healthcare could not be clearer. “The League believes that health care services could be more equitably distributed by allocating medical resources to underserved areas.” The West side of Rockford is an underserved community with a demographic that includes socioeconomic, race, age, gender that fall within the consensus of underserved communities. Additionally, If the Western half of Winnebago County is included you have a major rural demographic. Again, an underserved community.
Mercy Health Systems in their request for licensure of the new Eastside campus stated that the Rockton Rd campus would remain open and be actively supported by the organization. CEO Javon Bea further stated that
“The North Rockton Avenue campus has quality facilities for a variety of services, and we will continue to provide a wide range of adult outpatient and inpatient care … and commit to maintain a N. Rockton Avenue campus, providing hospital-based and outpatient services to its patients and investing $50 million in capital improvements over the next ten years”.
Assurances were made that the purpose of the new facility was to provide a continuum of care in the pediatric arena building of the specialized Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit. That pediatric unit is now closed.
The closure of the Rockton Campus leaves the entire western half of Winnebago County without ER or hospital services. Many of those in the Northern reaches of the county will be forced out of state for treatment. This is not a matter of convenience but rather necessity. The people living in this area face transportation, access, and support barriers for care without this “local” option. CEO Bea has spoken of his understanding of the barriers to access of care for the west side community as he grew up here. However, his actions and proposals fail to reflect that experience. Further the rationalization that there are also two additional hospital systems serving Rockford and will fill gaps is a straw argument. While Swedish American has already picked up the major trauma and other ER functions previously provided by Mercy’s Westside facility, it has added delay to cases where time is of the essence. An additional 15 minutes in a gunshot case can make the difference between life and death. As evidenced by the ICU availability at both OSF and UW/Swedes, these hospitals are limited in capacity.
Based upon the following factors the League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford urges the Illinois Department of Public Health to look deeply at the record of candor from Mercy Health Systems, as well as the consequence that closure will make for a hospital care desert on the West side of Winnebago County, and a disproportionate impact on the poor, underserved racial communities, our seniors, and the rural population. We respectfully request a fairer, more humane solution be found.
The Board of Directors, League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford
Contact: Claire Flynn McIntyre, President