Thursday, April 03, 2008

Free For The Taking

Anyone with a dream of being a hospital administrator can see that dream come true.

St. Francis Hospital in Blue Island, Illinois, is available. For free. Yours for the asking.

The nuns are keen to unload the facility, which was recently upgraded. There are fabulous surgical suites and private rooms with comfortable furnishings. Would you not like to claim it as your own? For no money down and no installments?

Like most Catholic hospitals, St. Francis had a policy to treat all, regardless of ability to pay. When the place was first built, the patients came from all walks of life, and many had private insurance that helped cover the cost of the poor. That's how it was, back then. Privately insured patients were billed at a rate that included a bit on the side for the needy, in a version of charity that suited the purpose.

The neighborhood began to change and the privately insured patients moved to the suburbs. Other hospitals followed them, and before long, all that St. Francis had were the destitute, with no paying clients to foot all the bills. It was up to Medicaid to carry the load, but in Illinois, the bills are so far in arrears that doctors won't even accept a Medicaid patient if they've got their roster of charity cases filled.

Tens of millions of dollars were eaten up by health care costs that never got fully reimbursed by federal or state dollars. St. Francis wanted to expand into the wealthier suburbs, but the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board said no. Apparently, the good Sisters didn't have any clout with Tony Rezko, who controlled the board so that his pals could make a pile.

Patients using St. Francis have four or five other places to choose from, all within a five mile radius.

Did no one at the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board notice that there were more than enough hospitals in the area before they approved construction for those other four hospitals?

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