An agreement has been reached by the Village of Orland Park, Illinois, and St. George Corp., which is the parent of Palos Community Hospital, to preserve the Palos Health & Fitness Center after months of controversy.
The memorandum of understanding announced Wednesday involves a land swap that would allow the hospital to expand its Orland Park Campus to the west and allow the village to retain the Palos Health & Fitness Center to the south, according to a Daily Southtown report. The agreement is expected to go before the Village Board for a vote on April 4.
"It has taken considerable time and effort to reach this agreement because like any project of this magnitude, proposed reconfigurations and new structural designs always include new legal, regulatory, construction and finance issues that must be addressed, negotiated and resolved,” Dan McLaughlin, mayor, Orland Park, said in a statement. "While we are still working out details to finalize a specific plan, I am greatly encouraged that the cooperation between Palos Community Hospital and the Village of Orland Park to date is going to manifest itself into a 'win-win' for all parties involved – especially those residents who have come to rely on the fitness center to help improve the quality of their lives."
The center's approximately 4,300 active and inactive members were notified by letter in January of the planned closure in May as part of the hospital's proposed $133 million expansion project. Hospital officials indicated they could not complete the first phase of the project and leave room for future expansion due to geographic limitations of the location, according to the Daily Southtown.
"We appreciate Mayor McLaughlin's lead and interest in preserving the fitness center while helping us move forward with our very important investment in Orland Park," Terrance Moisan, CEO, Palos Community Hospital, said in a statement. "Ultimately, this project is about fulfilling our commitment to bringing state-of-the-art health care to the community that we have been proud to be part of for more than 30 years."
Palos Health & Fitness, a 78,000-square-foot center that opened in 2001, has classes, programs and services similar to standard health clubs. The center's medical integration services include health risk assessment, various health analysis and screenings, a therapeutic exercise pool for arthritis and joint rehabilitation, community wellness programs, and Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease and pulmonary rehab programs.
The plan to close the center mobilized Save PHFC, an opposition group with a mission of not letting it close "without a fight." That group, which attracted nearly 700 to its Facebook page, attended the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board's (IHFSRB) public hearing on Feb. 18 that reviewed the hospital's expansion proposal.
The hospital's application for permit filed in January showed three components to the expansion: a four-story, 107,760-square-foot medical office building to include physician offices, and diagnostic and treatment space for a variety of medical specialties; a three-story, 16,000-square-foot building connection to join two existing office buildings to the proposed medical office building; and the 125,000-square-foot parking garage.
"With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, the health care delivery system is in the midst of a paradigm shift with the transition to value-based reimbursement, consumerism, high deductibles and payer-controlled referrals," Palos Community Hospital wrote in the application for permit.
The application noted that Palos Community Hospital entered into what it called an "innovative affiliation" with Loyola University Medical Center in April 2015, which it said allows both organizations to respond to the challenges of health care reform, share research and expand training and educational opportunities to provide complementary services and avoid costly duplication of services in the future.
"The goal of this affiliation is not to get bigger, it is to get better," Palos Community Hospital wrote in the application.
Center members, health care professionals and politicians voiced opposition to the expansion in letters posted on the IHFSRB's website. Orland Township Supervisor Paul O'Grady urged the hospital to reconsider in a Feb. 3 letter to Timothy Brosnan, Palos Community Hospital vice president of planning and community relations.
O'Grady posted this message on Facebook on Wednesday:
"To the residents of Orland Township and SAVE PHFC supporters……..the hospital administrator gave credit to the Village, but the credit belongs to you. You were the ones who voiced your opinions, showed up at meetings, braved the weather for a protest in front of the hospital and signed affidavits. Without your commitment to hold the hospital to their word the fitness center would have been bulldozed by now. I have never been more proud to be your Township Supervisor. Congratulations on YOUR win."