ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The head of one local hospital is trying to change the way it does business, but Rockford’s mayor is pushing back.

CEO Javon Bea announced last year that MercyHealth Rockton will not support any in-patient services. Instead, those patients will go to Mercy’s Riverside facility. Rockton will be completely out-patient.

The Rockton hospital is the only hospital and emergency room on the city’s West side. Javon Bea Mercyhealth Riverside, OSF Saint Anthony and UW Health SwedishAmerican hospitals are all located east of the Rock River.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara requested a public hearing from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Board. Board members granted the request.

Mercyhealth said the move was necessary after decreased volume in its emergency departments, an increase in telemedicine, and lower surgery volumes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the hearing, Bea placed blame for the closures squarely at the feet of Mayor McNamara and the City, for not installing a box culvert to prevent additional flooding. On June 18th, 2018, waters backed up during a strong storm and ran toward the hospital, located at 2400 N Rockton Avenue, resulting in a glass window shattering and allowing water to flood into the hospital, resulting in “significant and catastrophic damage,” Bea said.

Bea said hundreds of contractors were diverted from Mercyhealth’s Riverside campus project to assist with the water issues, to keep micro-organisms in the polluted water from contaminating the entire hospital.

Mercyhealth’s insurance company sued the City of Rockford, claiming it was negligent in the maintenance of the storm drain and sewer system near the hospital.

McNamara, Rep. Maurice West, Rep. Dave Vella, and Sen. Steve Stadelman pushed back against Bea’s claims, saying Bea intended to close the Westside campus ever since the announcement of the new, multi-million dollar hospital on east Riverside, despite his repeated assurances to the contrary.

McNamara and West chastized Bea for removing patient services during a pandemic. Stadelman said Rockford had experienced the equivalent of a retail store “bait-and-switch” scheme, being promised one thing and having another delivered.

In 2020, Mercyhealth discontinued care for 66,000 local IlliniCare, Meridian, Molina Medicaid, and Blue Cross Blue Shield patients and also shut down inpatient mental health treatment services. Mercyhealth said its losses from Medicaid exceed $30 million a year.

Bea, a Rockford native, has served as the President and CEO of Mercyhealth since 1989. He is credited with much of the growth Mercyhealth has had over the last 30 years. 

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Board will consider granting Mercyhealth’s request on March 15th.