ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The fight continues over Mercyhealth’s decision to eliminate all inpatient services at its Rockton campus.
Mercy administrators and employees made their case for change during a public hearing on Wednesday, while other warned that west side residents will be left hanging with fewer services. Administrators said that city-funded drainage improvements would change their plans, but city leaders said that the hospital is asking for too much.
“You can’t have people in a hospital where they’re sucking in all kinds of dangerous contaminants, from mold, to viruses, to dirty bacteria,” said Javon Bea, President and CEO of Mercyhealth.
Ongoing flooding concerns led to the decision to discontinue inpatient care at the Rockton Avenue campus, according to Bea. The facility was filled with storm water back in June of 2018, and Bea thinks that it is likely to happen again.
“I mean, they’re stuck in the beds and you’d be poisoning them,” Bea said. “You can’t do that.”
Bea blames the flood on city leaders. He said that Mercy asked Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara to invest $6 million in new drainage equipment following the incident.
“I’d be willing to keep those beds open if the mayor would put in the box culvert, because I know that would save the building,” Bea said.
However, the health system actually requested upgrades totaling more than $13 million, according to McNamara.
“I’m certainly not going to just freely shell out City of Rockford hard-earned tax dollars,” McNamara said. “He’s used Rockford Memorial Foundation funds to build a palace on Riverside, but yet he can’t take of the flooding issues that now he blames?”
Inpatient services at the Rockton Avenue campus were underutilized in recent years, according to Bea. He said that many patients already needed to be transferred to the Riverside campus for treatment based on staffing, but McNamara maintains that the loss of beds is a big blow for residents on Rockford’s west side.
“There’s only certain types of patients that could be put in those beds that would not require any kind of specialty backup,” Bea said.
“If it’s someone who is involved in some form of criminal activity, it’s a longer drive for them to get the care that they need. If it’s someone who has COVID and needs emergency care right away, they now have a longer drive to get care,” McNamara added.
Bea also argued that the responsibility to provide medical care on the city’s west side should not fall to one health system. However, McNamara praised SwedishAmerican and OSF for recent community investment.