QUINCY -- Quincy's medical community remains divided over the need for a second ambulatory surgical center and the possible job losses it might cause.
Quincy Medical Group is seeking permission to create a surgical center in the former Bergner's building. Five surgical rooms and three procedure rooms, with one operating room dedicated to cardiac catheterization, are in the QMG plan. The facility would cost $19.5 million, and QMG estimates it would save surgery patients about $4 million a year in facility fees.
Blessing Health System officials said the surgery center would cost the nonprofit hospital "$41 million a year in economic losses, which translates to at least 400 jobs lost."
During a Tuesday news conference Blessing Health System President and CEO Maureen Kahn said the surgical center proposal "is a fundamental threat to the quality health care this region has come to expect -- and deserves."
QMG CEO Carol Brockmiller believes the demand for ambulatory surgeries is increasing and a lower cost alternative is needed in Quincy.
"As health care changes ... we can't rely on old approaches. We know that patients and employers want us to provide care at lower costs," Brockmiller said.
During a public hearing before the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board on Jan. 24, Brockmiller said outpatient procedures at free-standing surgical centers average about 50 percent lower costs. Brockmiller said those savings will be passed along to the community.
"There is a genuine need for this surgery center," Brockmiller said.
An existing surgical center that Blessing owns and QMG handles under a management agreement has been used at nearly 80 percent capacity, Brockmiller said. Blessing officials say the surgical center is booked at about 50 percent capacity and there is room for expansion.
Brockmiller said the 115 physicians at QMG do not want to harm the hospital. She said most of those physicians do surgeries or treat patients at Blessing.
Brockmiller said Medicare and other authorities would certify the surgical center under national health care standards for safety.
QMG's application predicts a caseload of 11,600 patients who would be redirected to the new surgical center by physicians who work at QMG. Blessing handled 13,636 surgeries in 2017.
Patrick Gerveler, Blessing Health System vice president and chief financial officer, said the revenue loss of $41 million is based on surgical data from recent years.
"QMG doctors perform 75 percent of the procedures" that are most popular at the existing surgical center, Gerveler said.
Based on the QMG certificate of need, Blessing was able to tally the total payments the clinic is expected to receive. Gerveler said the total revenue would be $41,231,361, based on QMG's documents.
During Blessing's news conference, Brad Richmiller, who has had at least 19 surgeries in Quincy, expressed his concern that a loss of income because of a competing surgical center might cause Blessing Hospital to reduce or eliminate its trauma care.
"I believe the surgical center is not needed because the population doesn't warrant it," Richmiller said. He added that he hopes Blessing and QMG work together on a single ambulatory surgery center.
Mental health services provided by the hospital are supplemented by income from the existing surgical center that Blessing bought from QMG in 2006. Behavioral services now has more than 100 workers whose salaries are paid in part because of $6 million that Blessing brings in through the current surgical center.
John McDowell, head of Behavioral Health Services at Blessing, said the number of suicides and attempted suicides in Adams County has been rising. He is concerned about what people will do if those services are downsized or eliminated.
"When we see a patient now, we are able to find them a bed and get them the care they need here," McDowell said. "If people can no longer find the care they need here, they will have to go two to five hours away for care, away from their families, away from their support network."
Deanna Sublette, a licensed clinical professional counselor at Blessing, echoed McDowell's concerns.
"I do not know where these people will go without the care we offer here. It really is about helping them," Sublette said.
The Illinois Health Care Facilities and Services Review Board will accept written comments on the proposal through Feb. 13 on the agency website. The board will hold its hearing on the Quincy Medical Group ambulatory surgery center request during a March 5 meeting in Bolingbrook. If approved, the application said construction could be complete by March 1, 2021.