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Pandemic causes construction delays for Mercyhealth hospital

The property across from the Holiday Inn at the intersection of Three Oaks Road and Route 31 is the site of a previously contested new Mercy Health hospital on Tuesday in Crystal Lake.
The property across from the Holiday Inn at the intersection of Three Oaks Road and Route 31 is the site of a previously contested new Mercy Health hospital on Tuesday in Crystal Lake.

The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled the construction of a highly anticipated Mercyhealth hospital on the corner of Route 31 and Three Oaks Road in Crystal Lake.

As previously reported by the Northwest Herald, Javon Bea, president and CEO of Mercyhealth, initially said the $100 million hospital would break ground in the city “as soon as the frost leaves the ground” in spring 2020.

According to a June 17 Facebook post on Mercyhealth McHenry County's page, the hospital system wrote that it was finishing its designs and will break ground soon on Mercyhealth Hospital and Medical Center–Crystal Lake.

"Thank you for your support through this process," Mercyhealth wrote. "We are excited to provide updates to you as we move forward!"

But Michelle Rentzsch, community development director for Crystal Lake, said everything kind of came to a "grinding halt in March and April" with COVID-19.

"They told us they really need to focus on that," Rentzsch said.

Mercyhealth has some permits right now, for tree removal and grading, and they did that work initially, and they were submitting ones to start doing some of the foundation's utilities.

"They don't have those permits yet, because those plans are not quite approved yet," Rentzsch said. "But that's what they're working on. That will be our next step."

Along with tree removal, and significant grading of the site, Mercyhealth also worked on the stormwater basins.

"Now, we just have to wait for things to normalize a little bit," Rentzsch said. "I think all hospital systems, all their staff are dedicated to making sure that they're prepared to help with their patients. So they're not focusing on growth or constructing buildings right now. They're focusing on patient care."

A spokeswoman for Mercyhealth said in an email to the Northwest Herald they are moving forward on the project.

"We plan to announce the start date and completion date in the fall," she said.

Mercyhealth is a multiregional health system with seven hospitals and 85 primary and specialty care locations serving 55 northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin communities.

Its plan for the Crystal Lake hospital includes 13 beds, with private inpatient and intensive care beds, operating rooms and other services, as well as a 24/7 emergency room.

The hospital system first announced a plan to build a Crystal Lake micro hospital in 2017. However, Centegra Health System asked a judge to toss out the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board’s decision to grant Mercyhealth a permit, arguing that review board members failed to follow their own rules when approving the 13-bed hospital.

Centegra claimed the board failed to follow its requirement that hospitals have at least 100 beds, and a judge in McHenry County’s circuit court ruled the proposed 13-bed facility failed to meet state criteria.

Mercyhealth then appealed that ruling, and an appellate court ruled that Mercyhealth’s application had met the four statutory requirements needed to issue the permit.

Last year, the 2nd District Appellate Court of Illinois upheld the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board’s decision to grant Mercyhealth a certificate of need to build a hospital in Crystal Lake.

Despite construction being at a standstill because of COVID-19, the city still stays in continuous communication with Mercyhealth, Rentzsch said, adding that Crystal Lake staff has been checking in with them to make sure they have everything they need.

"When they're ready to proceed, then we're ready to go, too," Rentzsch said. "I think we all hope that we can get back to some sort of normal."

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