Tuesday, January 15, 2008


East St. Louis, Illinois is one of the poorest cities in the USA.

Although poor, residents there think for some reason they deserve to be able to make it to the hospital. They have this odd notion they deserve to live.

They're upset that Southern Illinois Healthcare has proposed closing Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital and merging it with Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville into one new hospital. The merger would leave East St. Louis without a full-scale hospital.

So 700 people traveled to Springfield, Illinois by bus to attend a state hearing concerning the future of their hospital. More than 30,000 signatures have been collected by East St. Louis city leaders, clergy and other organizers against the merger. The Illinois state health facility planning board however decided to put off the meeting until April they said because their staff needed more time. This is the second time they've postponed the meeting for the same reason. Seven hundred poor folks got back on their buses and headed home without being heard.

That's kind of how it works when your poor, hardworking, but poor. Who cares about your time and energy? Who cares about you at all?

Well, apparently the mayor of East St. Louis cares some. Mayor Alvin L. Parks Jr. (pictured above) organized the bus trip to show the state that residents are opposed to Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital being merged with Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville. Mayor Parks has been involved in the fight from the beginning and he deserves some credit for it.

Also supporting the drive to keep the hospital open is Service Employees International Union Local 2000. The union points out all hospitals must have a Certificate of Need for the communities they serve. Kenneth Hall's Certificate of Need is based on an East St. Louis population of 31,542 persons and a surrounding area of Brooklyn, Allorton, Dupont, and Sauget. The Hospital's intention to move to Sauget, which has a population of 247 persons, means that they will be setting up in an area which has a much reduced need for their services.

Moving Kenneth Hall Hospital, the union adds, will cause the loss of many lives because of the distance patients will have to travel, and will also mean the loss of approximately 300 jobs.

The question is will those with the power to do something listen to the people of East St. Louis and the workers at the hospital or to the owners of the hospital?

The following is from KSDX News (St. Louis).

Despite Busloads From East St. Louis, State Board Delays Hospital

KSDK - The Illinois state health facility planning board has delayed a decision on the merger of two local hospitals.

More than 700 East St. Louis residents and city leaders boarded 22 buses early Tuesday morning to head to Springfield to protest the merger of Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital and Touchette Regional Hospital in Centerville. Officials set up 18 different pickup points for people who wanted to make the trip.

But shortly after the hearing began in Springfield, IL, state officials announced they were postponing it until April 8 because hospital officials had filed paperwork too late. Staff members want to have more time to look at the documents.

East St. Louis officials say they plan to organize a similar protest effort for the April hearing. But they won't be able to speak. Only written testimony for city leaders will be accepted before the hearing.

For many in East St. Louis there's concern that losing Kenneth Hall could mean some people won't have a place to go for medical treatment, and ultimately there's concern some people will lose their lives. City leaders say Kenneth Hall is the only place some can walk to or easily take metro link or other public transit to.

Under the current merger plan, Kenneth Hall would continue offering emergency room services and outpatient mental health services, but city leaders say as many as 300 jobs could be lost. For many patients at the hospital the biggest concern is doctors leaving.

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