Governor fires state  health board

    Move could spell doom for Orland hospital proposals

    By Alice Hohl[0]

    Staff writer

    The members of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board were
relieved of duty Monday by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

    The governor signed a bill Monday immediately terminating the members
and setting the stage for him to appoint five new members by the end of
the month.

    The implications for pending projects, including two proposals for a
new hospital in the Orland Park area, could be serious.

    Some industry insiders said new board members may rely more heavily
on analysis by the state's paid staff, which has recommended against
approving a hospital in the Orland Park area.

    Former board members were accused of ignoring staff analysis and
approving pet projects. Board members were sued over their decision to
approve a new hospital in Crystal Lake and subpoenaed by the U.S.
attorney's office.

    "Given all of the issues raised concerning the Health Facilities
Planning Board, wiping out the current board and giving it a fresh start
with new members is the best way to move forward," Blagojevich said in a
written statement.

    Blagojevich said he is still considering abolishing the board.

    A spokeswoman for the governor's office said even if that happens,
projects pending before the board, such as the Orland hospital proposals,
would have to continue through the process.

    "The first order of business is to have the projects that are pending
now be acted on before you abolish the board," Cheryle Jackson said.

    "Those items and those issues have to be acted on whether you abolish
the board or not."

    The governor's office is still looking for candidates to fill the
vacancies, Jackson said.

    The law signed Monday says any new board member must have no
financial ties to the health care industry.

    That stipulation left many speculating about who might serve on the
board, since most people who don't work in the industry know little about
the board's duties.

    "The intent is to rout out this conflict of interest," said Cindi
Canary, executive director of Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

    "It does raise the question of whether you're going to have fully
informed board members. But if you look creatively, there may be academics
or others. We may well bring in a good crop of people."

    The state board's staff, which will remain in place, will be
important for new members, Canary said. Previous board members were
criticized for ignoring staff recommendations.

    "The staff will advise the board," Canary said. "The board members
don't need to know every detail, but they need to ask the right

    Southland hospital executives were pleased with the governor's

    Tim Brosnan, a spokesman for Palos Community Hospital in Palos
Heights, which opposes the two pending applications for an Orland
Park-area hospital, said he hopes a new board will make more consistent

    "It would be my hope that they would work collaboratively with the
staff, and that they would consistently try to follow the recommendations
of the staff, as long as its within the confines of the rules," Brosnan

    Staff reports reviewing the Orland Park-area hospital proposals
showed mostly negative findings for the plans -- both a plan by Advocate
Health Care to build a 144-bed hospital on the border of Tinley Park and
Orland Park, and a plan by St. Francis Hospital and Health Center to build
a 130-bed hospital in Orland Park.

    The reports assert the number of licensed beds in the area is

    A spokeswoman for St. Francis said the hospital hopes the planning
board's process will be under way again soon.

    "We firmly believe that there is a demonstrated need for a new
hospital in this area and want to begin serving these communities just as
soon as possible," Debra Robbins said.

    "We're hopeful that the planning board will agree with us."

    Dan Parker, a spokesman for Advocate, expressed similar sentiments
about Advocate's proposal.

    "We'd like to see our project receive a fair opportunity to move
forward,  whether it's through a reconstituted board or some other
mechanism," Parker said.


Back to Alice’s Published Work