A new eight-story building was supposed to open next spring, but blocked by the firing of a CEO and then the pandemic, Cook County’s plans to renovate services at its historic Provident Hospital were put on hold for the third time. time.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced the news at her post-board press conference on Thursday, citing a 25% increase in costs and the need to apply to the state for a new permit to build. She said the county is using the pause as an opportunity to reevaluate its plans for the building, one of two hospitals that Cook County Health operates.
“Health disparities have been amplified and exacerbated,” he said. “Changes in the healthcare landscape have also affected how we view our long-term needs. We believe it is prudent to step back at this time to carefully address the generational needs in the community surrounding the hospital. And equitable impact is something we fight for and want to uphold.”
County officials first announced plans for South Side Public Hospital three years ago. The new $240 million facility would be located just west of the current one, and would be about 20% smaller, officials said at the time. The old building would be demolished and the new one would offer more services, including MRI, bariatrics, orthopedics, dental care and sports medicine. The emergency service would also have more comprehensive care.
The county plans won approval from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board that fall. But months later after a CEO shake-up in February 2020, the Cook County Health Governing Board paused the project until a new leader had “an opportunity to be fully briefed to direct this project to successful completion.”
Last June, the new general director of the system, Israel Rocha, announced again the project would be delayed, blaming the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, he predicted that construction would be delayed by at least a year.
On Thursday, Preckwinkle said supply chain issues and construction and labor costs caused the price of the new facility to rise to “significantly more than $300 million.” Because of those higher costs, the county needs to “voluntarily release” the certificate of need it received from the health facility board and reapply “within the next few months” with the new adjusted costs.
A Cook County Health spokeswoman said the current certificate of need contained the approved price tag of $240 million and allowed only a 7% surplus.
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That new application won’t come until later this year or perhaps next when the county reconsiders what services the new Provident facility might offer.
The healthcare landscape in the area surrounding Provident has changed significantly in recent years, between the growing footprint of Medicine at UChicago and the once flaunted, then abandoned merger of four smaller, struggling Southside hospitals in 2020.
Preckwinkle and Rocha did not commit to a new construction schedule. “We have hired a consultant to help us look at our original plan and see how that plan should be modified in light of developments over the last five years,” Preckwinkle said. In the meantime, the county will continue to demolish outpatient facilities on the Provident campus that she says have been vacant for more than 10 years.
Rocha said the delay has not diminished patient faith in Provident.
“In fact, we have added services. We recently reopened our ICU… We’ve added additional capacity for medical-surgical services, we’ve restarted surgical services, and we’ve maintained our emergency department,” he said.
In the intervening years, Provident has added specialized services such as a dialysis center and a modernized eye clinic.
“I know everyone would love the new (facility) as quickly as possible and that’s what we’re working on, but we want to make sure it’s the right services,” Rocha said.