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St. Margaret's Health closing all Spring Valley and Peru locations at midnight on Friday, June 16

The rural hospital closure in Illinois marks the 100th to close in the US since 2005.

SPRING VALLEY, Ill. — St. Margaret's Health - Spring Valley will close its doors today, at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, June 16. All facilities at its Peru location will also close, although many services in Peru have already been shuttered for months after the hospital announced operations were being temporarily suspended on Jan. 28.

The announcement was posted to St. Margaret's Facebook page on May 10. Sister Suzanne Stahl said hospital leadership "has diligently tried" to integrate the Illinois Valley Community Hospital into St. Margaret's Health to combat the increasing challenges that many rural hospitals face today. 

"Rural hospitals are struggling throughout the nation and many have already closed," Stahl said. "Due to a number of factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the cyber attack on the computer system of St. Margaret's Health and a shortage of staff, it has become impossible to sustain our ministry." 

The hospital's vice president of quality and community services, Linda Burt, elaborated on these reasons in an email to News 8.

"Covid brought unprecedented expenses, low patient volume for a period of time as we tried to keep patients safe in their home," Burt wrote. "But Covid patients were very sick and often ended up on ventilators. We needed more staff that we had to care for these patients, including hospitalists 24 hours a day. We needed additional clinicians and were dependent on temporary staffing agencies. We continued to rely on temp staffing until this week. We spent in excess of $16 million of unbudgeted monies to pay for this so that we could provide safe staffing for our patients."

St. Margaret's Health - Spring Valley was also impacted by a cyber security attack in February 2021. It lasted almost four months, according to Burt.

"We could not access any of our information system, including email and the EMR," Burt wrote in an email. "We had to resort to paper for medical records. It took many months, and in some service lines, almost a year to get back online and able to enter any charges or send out claims. Many of the insurance plans have timely filing clauses which, if not done, they will not pay. So no claims were being sent out and no payment was coming in."

Fortunately, Stahl said, OSF HealthCare signed a letter of intent to acquire the now-closed St. Margaret's Health - Peru facility. However, OSF has not said if it also plans to acquire the Spring Valley facility and there's no timeline for when it will reopen in Peru.

"Once the sale is consummated, the proceeds of the sale will help to pay off a portion of St. Margaret's debts," Stahl said. "And even more importantly, will ensure that Catholic faith-based health care will continue in the Illinois Valley and the surrounding areas."

At one point, Carle Clinic contact St. Margaret's investment bankers and made a visit to Spring Valley, according to Burt, but she didn't elaborate on why the acquisition didn't proceed.

Spring Valley Mayor Melanie Malooley Thompson has lived in Spring Valley her whole life and lives just half a mile away from the hospital. Three of her six kids were born at the hospital.

"It's terribly disheartening to think as I just drove through the parking lot, you look at all the cars, you look at all the people being served by this hospital, and to think in two short days this will be gone is horrific," she said.

Malooley Thompson worries about the impact the closure will have on Spring Valley and the rest of the region.

"We're going to have approximately 42,000 people without a hospital that they've been accustomed to having two hospitals," she said. "We are going to have people out of work for we don't know how long. All of the jobs won't be replaced. It's going to have a tremendous impact on our community, our restaurants, our financial institutions."

She herself is already feeling the impact. On Wednesday, St. Margaret's was picking up the medical devices her mom's been using on her hospice care, including her hospital bed and her breathing machine.

She said the city was not notified about the closure, instead learning about it in Stahl's Facebook video message.

"We also contacted Senator Rezin and Representative Yednock, asking them to support our objection. Our attempts to communicate with management at St. Margaret’s Hospital, as its employees know, have been frustrating and futile," Malooley Thompson said in a statement in May when the closure was first announced. "The hospital in Spring Valley is not city-owned. We have done everything we can to avoid this result, but ultimately, the city does not control the hospital." 

The next closest hospital to Spring Valley is an OSF HealthCare facility in Princeton. 

Since 2005, 99 rural hospitals have closed permanently in the U.S., according to a University of North Carolina project. That includes St. Margaret's Health in Peru. The Spring Valley hospital marks number 100.

Starting Thursday, Spring Valley no longer accepted ambulances with emergency situations. Instead, people are asked to call 911. The emergency department stopped accepting walk in patients at noon on Friday to ensure no patients are in the ED by 11:59 p.m.

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