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'We have failed our pregnant moms' | Peru residents outraged over fewer OB services after St. Margaret's Health temporarily closes

The hospital's Peru campus temporarily shut down Jan. 28, drawing ire and outrage from the community and its former staff.

PERU, Illinois — St. Margaret's Health in Peru temporarily shut down all emergency acute service including obstetrics on Jan. 28, citing financial problems brought on by the pandemic.

Hospital officials claimed in a call to media last month that it loses about $5,000 per delivery and last year delivered over 500 babies. But it has been nine days since it officially ceased operations and the community is still at a loss for words. 

Former SMH OB Nurse Manager Melissa Balma told community members and journalists on Monday at a press conference that she was disappointed in SMH.

"We have failed our pregnant moms, we have failed our community, we have failed in general," Balma said.

The press conference was led by Illinois Republican State Senator Sue Rezin. Also in attendance was Illinois Democrat State Senator Lance Yednock, Illinois Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Zens, Peru Mayor Ken Kolowski and an expectant mother impacted by SMH's closure, Emily Schaub.

The community is now left without any nearby medical centers that provide obstetrics (OB) services. According to Sen. Rezin, the nearest medical facility with OB services is OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center in Ottawa. That's 17 miles away from SMH's Peru campus and much further than what mom-to-be Schaub had planned.

"This has so many implications," Shaub said. "It's absurd. We have women who are past due, are due. We don't have control over when a baby decides to come."

A LaSalle resident, Schaub says she now has to potentially miss work to plan when she might need to drive the extra 30 minutes to OSF to deliver her baby, who is due late May. She's already 26 weeks into her pregnancy.

"I could have to drive every week, once I get closer to my due date, to Morris or to Ottawa for these appointments and miss out on even more work or even time I should be spending relaxing before my baby comes as I'm told. "

Balma says more than 40 women are expected to deliver in the next four weeks and many of them don't know where they'll go.

"It's sickening about the poor communication that this hospital has left the staff and community with the last two years," Balma said. "Something has to change."

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