Why Holy Family Plans to Shift Focus

Article excerpt

Byline: Ames Boykin Daily Herald Staff Writer

Northwest suburban residents may benefit from the variety of area hospitals standing by to meet their needs.

But that same variety has left empty beds at Holy Family Medical Center in Des Plaines for more than a decade.

So Holy Family plans to find its salve by changing its focus.

While hospital officials say the shift is the best thing for Holy Family, questions are being raised about whether it will help or hurt services at neighboring hospitals and fire departments.

Resurrection Health Care's Holy Family, a Catholic hospital founded in 1961, expects to turn the traditional hospital into one primarily serving the most critically ill, people who need intensive care for at least 25 days.

"It's going beyond acute care," said Sister Donna Marie Wolowicki, CEO of both Holy Family and Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago. "They need care that's greater than what you get in a nursing home."

Holy Family will begin the shift on Friday, when it plans to close its cardiac catheterization lab. The plan would make Holy Family the first such hospital in the Northwest suburbs and the third in the Chicago area. The switch is expected to be finished in a year, but Holy Family has given no exact timeline and still must get state approval.

Des Plaines, Wheeling, Mount Prospect and Prospect Heights fire officials have been told the change could come as early as this fall.

The number of patients at Holy Family, at 100 N. River Road, has dropped over the past decade, Wolowicki said. Hospitals in the area usually serve 120 to 125 patients a night, but Holy Family averages about 80, she said.

Officials decided to change focus based on state data that shows 800 more surgical hospital beds exist in the area than needed, Wolowicki said. Resurrection, which runs seven other Chicago-area hospitals, also needs an alternative for its critically ill patients, she said. Holy Family will take patients from any area hospital.

The hospital will seek permission from the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board within a year, she said.

While Holy Family officials say they have no estimates yet on the project's price tag or how much the new hospital will cost to run, others in the health-care industry say such a change will help save money.

Such long-term care facilities generally receive more Medicare money per patient, because they are under a different payment system than more traditional hospitals, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Baltimore.

While the new hospital will need fewer employees, officials pledge no layoffs and guarantee hourly workers a job within the Resurrection network.

Holy Family has 600 employees now, with 184 beds. The transformed hospital will have 120 beds. The new hospital will continue to offer outpatient services that it offers now, ranging from mammograms to speech therapy, as well as inpatient substance abuse help. …