QUINCY -- Representatives from Blessing Hospital and Quincy Medical Group spent a couple of hours Monday exchanging verbal volleys during a public hearing designed to weigh the merit of a proposed $21.4 million ambulatory surgical center.
Blessing's application to build the two-story, 36,000-square-foot surgical center on its 11th Street campus was the subject of the hearing, requested by Quincy Medical Group and held at City Hall.
Blessing filed an application June 28 with the state to move its surgical center from the space it leases from QMG at 1118 Hampshire. Blessing has leased the QMG space for 14 years.
Blessing's proposal is scheduled to go before the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board in Bolingbrook on Sept. 17. If approved, the new facility could open as soon as January 2022.
Mike Constantino of the Illinois Department of Public Health directed Monday's hearing, which attracted a turnout of about 50. Most of those in attendance were representatives from Blessing and QMG.
Tim Koontz, president of the Blessing Corporate Services Board of Trustees, noted the current lease with QMG expires in three years and said the time is right for Blessing to create its own surgical center closer to its main campus.
"The current site limits procedures," said Koontz, who told the gathering the new surgery center would lessen confusion and help the general public "better differentiate" services between the two entities.
Koontz also highlighted better accessibility and a modernized facility as additional pluses for the Blessing proposal.
Quincy Medical Group CEO Carol Brockmiller said Blessing has been slow to offer health care change and is using "smoke and mirrors" in its effort gain approval for this particular project.
"Transformation in health care does not come with a new building," Brockmiller said.
Monday's public hearing is the latest development between the two local medical factions. Tensions appeared to heighten after QMG received approval in April to open a $20 million surgical center in the space formerly occupied by Bergner's at the Quincy Mall. Blessing requested a public hearing for that project, which was held earlier this year at the Quincy Public Library.
QMG officials are challenging what they say are deficiencies and gaps in information supplied by Blessing regarding its building proposal, ranging from what they felt is an uncertainty about what the proposed space would be used for to what Blessing's lease agreement is with QMG. Blessing says it leases its surgical center area at 1118 Hampshire for $1.57 million per year, while QMG Chief Financial officer Patty Williamson claims the proper figure is less than $1 million.
Julie Brink, president of the Blessing Hospital Board of Trustees, said it "makes no sense" to keep the current arrangement of leasing space from QMG intact.
"It's a better investment to relocate (to the Blessing campus)," she said.
Chris Niemann, a member of the Blessing Board of Trustees, said modernization and relocation are of the utmost importance.
"This will be position Blessing better for the future," he said.
Quincy citizen Penny Noble said she liked the idea of the surgery center being on the Blessing campus, citing "access and convenience" as major pluses.
Kristin Rogers, chief strategy officer at QMG, feels Blessing is "fabricating" problems to enhance approval of its project.
Katie Schelp, chief development officer at QMG, said Blessing is creating "animosity" between the two parties. She feels Blessing might be "trying to do what is best for the hospital, but not for the community," and urged "collaboration" between the two medical facilities.
"We have an unwavering commitment to the community, (and) it makes financial sense to relocate at this time," said Maureen Kahn, president and CEO of Blessing Hospital and Blessing Health System. "We have listened intently to the community."