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State hearing to decide future of maternity services at McHenry hospital set for Tuesday

A proposal by Northwestern Medicine to consolidate obstetric and neonatal services in McHenry County at their Huntley campus and eliminate the services at the McHenry campus is set to be reviewed by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board Tuesday.

The hospital system announced in September they planned to consolidate the services in Huntley, citing capacity issues for other services in McHenry and population trends in the county showing more growth in the Huntley area. However, the proposal received pushback from members of the public.

Several members of the public along with state Sen. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, spoke out against the decision at a preliminary hearing on the proposal in October. Since then, leaders from both the McHenry Township and Spring Grove fire protection district sent letters to the board opposing Northwestern’s decision.

Both fire departments cited longer travel times to hospitals as the main reason for opposing the change.

“This extended amount of travel time would delay providing the high level of care that is needed by an expectant mother and her child,” McHenry Township Fire Protection District trustees wrote.

The district responded to 29 obstetrics calls over the last two years, trustees said, but they think residential development in the area will increase the number of calls in coming years.

Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital.

Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, also submitted a letter asking that Northwestern make more data publicly available about the decision and how it would impact residents in eastern McHenry County and western Lake County, but did not take an opinion for either side.

“I urge you to take into consideration all available data related to the impacts of obstetric service discontinuations to ensure your decision on the exemption application will optimize maternal health outcomes in McHenry County and the surrounding area,” Underwood wrote.

Northwestern defended the decision in October, saying its data showed the change would not significantly impact the region.

“Based on a thorough analysis that examines capacity, population projections, drive times as well, Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital has enough capacity to consolidate the existing volume and an additional 30% of growth if needed,” Northwestern Medicine Senior Vice President Irfan Hafiz said.

Northwestern McHenry Hospital has 23 beds for birth services, according to state records. Both hospital are within the same obstetric planning area, which gives the area 19 excess obstetric beds now, but if services are consolidated, the state estimates the region will be short four beds.

Northwestern told the state it thinks demand for obstetric and neonatal services is insufficient at both the McHenry and Huntley hospitals and consolidating the services will better address the needs of the county and provide better quality of services, according to the records.

If approved by the board, services could be consolidated in Huntley by the end of the month.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held a 9 a.m. online. It is open to the public and time will be set aside for members of the public to speak.

More information about the meeting and a link to attend can be found at bit.ly/McHenryMaternity.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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