A Hospital Lost

South suburban residents had a chance to face the state health planning board about a proposal to close a hospital in Chicago Heights. The hearing lasted more than four hours, as several people spoke out in opposition to the plan. Their pleas, though, will have no bearing on the board's decision. The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board has no authority to stop Franciscan St. James Health from closing the 312-bed hospital.

First responders expressed concern that merging all emergency care at the Olympia Fields location could result in longer ambulance transport times, and the possibility of the Olympia Fields hospital's emergency room having to go on bypass due to high patient loads. Fire officials, such as Matteson Fire Chief Chris Schwalbe, said they were concerned about higher travel times for ambulances now going to the ER in Olympia Fields as opposed to Chicago Heights, where emergency services would be halted.Schwalbe said his department responds to more than 2,200 medical calls a year, and that calls have been rising between 2 percent and 4 percent annually. If one ambulance is delayed going to or coming back from Olympia Fields, that could impact the department's response time."We always have to worry about the next call," he said.The chief said he was also concerned that, although Olympia Field's ER would be expanded, it might not be enough. Portions of the 312-bed hospital in Chicago Heights are functionally obsolete, and it would cost tens of millions of dollars over the next few years to simply keep its doors open, according to Franciscan St. James, which reported an operating loss for the two hospitals of more than $66 million for the four-year period that ended in March 2014. Arnie Kimmel, Franciscan St. James Health chief executive, said the hospitals have a combined occupancy rate averaging 40 percent, and that's cost prohibitive to keep both Chicago Heights, 1423 Chicago Road, and Olympia Fields, 20201 S. Crawford Ave., open for inpatient care


One key factor in all of this is time. Time doesn't wait or stop for anyone, it is continuous. Once a shot is fired every second counts. The blood will continue to run. and the longer an injured person waits, the closer they are to death. Justifeyed wants to work with dispatch and emergency personnel to quicken response time, and be better prepared for whatever situation they are going into. Closing a hospital that is so beneficial to so many is not the answer, better technology and upgraded systems are, and that is Justifeyed. No one should have to fear for their life because of where they are from due to crime or time.


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