HUNTLEY – Waving cheerleading pompoms and signs, supporters of Centegra Health System’s campaign to build a new hospital in Huntley gathered for a pep rally of sorts Friday.
About 200 residents, business owners and hospital executives mingled outside at the corner of Haligus and Algonquin roads and tried to boost community enthusiasm for the hospital proposal, which in less than a week faces a certificate-of-need hearing for state approval.
“I just think it makes a lot of sense,” said Doug Meyer of Lake in the Hills, who stood along Algonquin Road waving a 4-by-4 “We Support Centegra” sign. “This is a high-growth area. I like their plan, and it fits the need.”
The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board will meet Wednesday to hear Centegra’s pitch for a $233 million, 128-bed hospital. The site is at Haligus and Reed roads, on Centegra’s existing health campus, where Centegra’s Health Bridge Fitness Center sits.
The board hearing Wednesday marks the second round for Centegra as well as for its competitor, Mercy Health System. Mercy also is slated to makes its case for a $115 million, 70-bed hospital in Crystal Lake, scaled down from its original plan for a $200 million, 128-bed hospital facility. The nine-member state board voted down both projects at that meeting.
Centegra supporters have been distributing more than 3,000 “We Support Centegra Hospital Huntley” signs for residents and businesses to post on their properties. The Huntley Village Board approved an ordinance in October waiving the $50 fee for temporary off-premise signs in support of Centegra.
Michael Geheren, a junior at Huntley High School, will be among the supporters to make a statement before the state review panel. He said a new hospital in Huntley would make a difference for his family. His mother suffers complications from Type 1 diabetes and requires weekly emergency room visits to Centegra Hospital – Woodstock, he said.
“This area is really underserved,” he said. “By the time it’s approved and they build it, the population will already be growing as the economy turns around.”
Commuting to Woodstock’s facility usually takes Geheren about 20 minutes, he said. The proposed site is within walking distance from his home in the Southwind subdivision.
“What’s nice about it is that it’s community supported,” Centegra CEO and President Michael Eesley said at the event.
However, he can count Jerry Chverchko, who lives in the Northbridge subdivision, out of that group.
Chverchko stood alone at the corner of Haligus and Algonquin roads across from the Centegra rally with his own homemade sign with the words “Hospital,” “Traffic” and "Noise” all crossed with red diagonal lines.
“I understand why people want to have a hospital near them,” he said. “I would want that, too. But not in my backyard. I would’ve never bought the home if I did.”
His neighborhood, by Algonquin Road and Route 47, is within a short distance from the proposed site.
“I’m opposed to it because it’s crowbarring a hospital into a residential area,” said the six-year Huntley resident, who goes to Centegra’s Woodstock facility for acute medical care.
Chverchko questions the need for another hospital and believes it could “cannibalize the patients from those surrounding hospitals.”
A passing motorist read his sign and yelled, “What if your neighbor needed the hospital?”
Chverchko’s response: “Well, I don’t need to worry because there’s so many empty houses [due to foreclosures] around me.”