Huntley hospital seen as boon to local economy

HUNTLEY – The impact a new Huntley hospital will have on the McHenry County job market has yet to be determined, but officials from several county agencies are optimistic it will be a boon to the local economy.

A state regulatory panel Tuesday approved a Centegra Health System plan for a $233 million hospital in Huntley on a 6-3 vote. The 128-bed hospital is expected to create 800 construction jobs and 1,100 permanent jobs at the Centegra campus at Haligus and Reed roads.

Officials anticipate breaking ground on the project in about a year and treating patients at the hospital in 2016.

The permanent jobs include nonclinical services such as food service and housekeeping, among others, creating a large impact on an otherwise sluggish economy, Centegra Vice President Susan Milford said.

“We’re not just hiring people who are professional clinical workers,” Milford said. “There are a lot of other positions you need to fill to run a hospital.”

The hospital will be built on an existing Centegra campus that includes an immediate care facility, physician offices, a back and spine center, and the Health Bridge Fitness Center.

“We have always worked with local businesses and contractors and will continue to do so,” Milford said. “In some areas we have to go outside the community, but we live and work here, too, and we want to support the community.”

Approval of the new hospital in Huntley will strengthen the relationship between School District 158 and Centegra, Superintendent John Burkey said

Huntley High School this fall will roll out the first of four health care classes as the school district works to establish a medical academy at the institution.

Once fully developed, students would have two pathways: preparation to receive an associate degree or similar certification at a two-year school, or preparation to receive a bachelor’s degree and beyond at a four-year institution.

“We started the medical academy because a lot of the jobs for the future are in health care,” Burkey said. “We still believe that, but it will only be truer with more medical jobs right in our own community.”

The ongoing partnership also will allow students more hands-on experience, and give graduates who pursue a career in health care fields the opportunity to come back to Huntley.

“We will be able to help Centegra create the workforce they need when the hospital opens,” Burkey said. “This will provide a prime health care job market for our graduating students.”

The new hospital will feature 100 medical surgical beds, an eight-bed intensive care unit and an emergency department with a Level II trauma center and special-care nursery, plus noninvasive cardiology services. Plans include a helipad and a dedicated center for women.

Although the employment arena won’t feel the impact immediately, recent high school graduates undecided on a career path or adults forced to the unemployment lines because of a sluggish economy should have more opportunities because of the approval.

“If you are trying to decide what you want to do with your life, gaining a skill set in the health care realm might be something you now want to pursue,” said Pam Cumpata, president of the McHenry County Economic Development Corp. “It’s going to be a huge positive for the county.”

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board denied the health system a certificate-of-need permit in December 2010. Centegra appealed and prevailed Tuesday.

The hospital is only the second new project the state board has approved. The other was Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, which was approved in 2004 and opened in 2007.

That 138-bed hospital employs about 600 residents of Will County and the surrounding area. Hundreds of temporary jobs also were created during construction.

“It was literally a home run from the day it was approved,” Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar said. “The hospital has created growth in the community in addition to the facility itself.”

That growth includes several new medical practitioners opening up shop in the village.

“A hospital becomes the focal point of the community,” Claar said. “These workers are housed in and around town, and our health care facilities have grown considerably.”

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