Local Editorials

Our View: Tough decisions for Centegra

Centegra Health System managers have had to make some difficult decisions in recent months, and they should have a free hand to do what is necessary to ensure that McHenry County’s largest health care provider remains viable.

Unfortunately, Centegra this week announced it would lay off 131 workers and outsource the jobs of 230 more, equivalent to about 9 percent of the total workforce for McHenry County’s largest employer.

The job cuts were announced only months after the health system announced an overhaul of its facilities and services that calls for closing its intensive care and medical-surgical operations at its Woodstock hospital.

These moves are meant to counteract a financial loss that records show eclipsed $60 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

People in Woodstock and surrounding areas are not pleased at the loss of a full-service hospital in their community. Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager said he would like to see Centegra preserve some of the services it offers in the city.

Woodstock officials have held a series of meetings to talk to the public about what’s in the offing.

There are concerns that the loss of hospital services is increasing ambulance transport times as well as the costs associated with them for people and fire departments, and that the community will lose convenient access to the level of medical care it needs and deserves.

A public hearing of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which must give approval on the reduction in service at the hospital, is scheduled for Oct. 2, and city officials are encouraging the public to attend.

The concerns of Woodstock officials are rational, and their desire to stand up for the needs of their residents is admirable. However, the numbers that the health system faces at the moment cannot be ignored and should not be addressed with half-measures.

Since it opened in August 2016, the 128-bed Centegra Hospital – Huntley has been popular with patients. It has new facilities, expanded services and a nearby health club.

The health system took in $564.2 million in operating revenue in the most recent fiscal year, a 12.7 percent increase over the previous year. However, its operating expenses increased 26.3 percent to $626.5 million. Almost half of that increase was in salary costs, which grew $53.3 million, records show.

About 40 percent of the 400 people hired to staff the Huntley hospital in 2016 were new hires, officials said.

Having two hospitals within 8 miles of each other makes little sense when a company is facing multimillion-dollar losses.

Woodstock might be better off with its own hospital, but it likely can survive without one – Crystal Lake has almost double the population and has not had a hospital in decades.

Centegra delivers a critical service to many people in our community and it should be able to do what is necessary to ensure that continues, be that through consolidation of services or combining with another health system.

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