Centegra delays Huntley hospital groundbreaking as court battle continues
By Dave Gathman firstname.lastname@example.org October 7, 2013 8:26PM
Artist's drawing of the planned Centegra Huntley Hospital. | Submitted
Updated: November 9, 2013 6:16AM
HUNTLEY — Originally scheduled for Oct. 23, the groundbreaking for Centegra Huntley Hospital has been postponed to sometime in December because of the ongoing court challenge brought against the project by three competitors, including Elgin’s Advocate Sherman Hospital.
But Michael Eesley, CEO of Centegra Health System, said Monday that he remains “more confident than we were before” that a judge eventually will allow the 128-bed, $233 million hospital to be built east of Haligus Road between Reed and Algonquin roads.
Sherman Hospital of Elgin, its parent Advocate Health Care system and the Wisconsin-based Mercy Health system have asked the Will County Circuit Court to cancel a “certificate of need” issued for the project by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board in July 2012.
In July of this year, Will County Judge Bobbi Petrungaro ruled that the state board members didn’t provide enough explanation about why they said “yes” by a 6-3 vote in July 2012 — especially after they had voted against the project previously, in 2011, and the board’s professional staff had been critical about some aspects of the proposal.
After speaking again about the project last month, the state board’s members voted 7-1 to send a message to the judge explaining that they endorse the project because it meets 17 of the state’s 20 guidelines by which the need for a hospital is measured.
Board members said the need for hospital beds has gone up in southern McHenry County along with population.
Eesley said the judge has told Centegra attorneys that she will issue a decision on the lawsuit by Nov. 12.
“I believe (the state board) sees what we see in regard to the need,” Eesley said. “The board has a couple new members since 2012, yet the vote was 7-1. And the only one who voted against it this time didn’t understand why they should be voting at all on this again.”
The CEO said Centegra officials are confident the judge will rule against the lawsuit on Nov. 12, but Centegra didn’t want to break ground this month while the permission to build still remained somewhat in doubt.
He said the delay will push Centegra Huntley’s completion date down the road a few months, but actual construction should start 30 to 60 days after the ceremonial groundbreaking, and the hospital should be finished by “close to spring 2016.”
Before bulldozers roll, the project also needs final approval from the Huntley Village Board. But that board unanimously approved the hospital’s preliminary plan in August and is expected to approve the final plan later this month.
Sherman, Advocate and Mercy lodged the court challenge in Will County because the state review board had been meeting at a Will County country club when it made the thumbs-up decision in 2012.
Sherman opposes the Huntley plan on grounds that its competition for patients would harm Sherman financially at a time when, Sherman argues, existing hospitals already can handle medical needs in northern Kane and southern McHenry counties.
Advocate, which has merged with Sherman since the court challenge was filed, put forward similar complaints with respect to its Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. And Mercy wanted to build a hospital of its own in Crystal Lake, also to serve southern McHenry County, although the review board voted to deny a certificate of need for that in September 2012.
In its explanation of its decision, the state board admitted that existing hospitals have a higher than desirable vacancy rate, but said a hospital in Huntley would “improve access to hospital services and provide a more comprehensive and orderly health care delivery system” in the Huntley-Hampshire-Algonquin-Lake in the Hills-Crystal Lake area.