Palos hospital’s Orland plans win favorable report

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Photo by Jack Murray

Colleen Voith shows photos of the therapy pool and other healing amenities at Palos Health & Fitness Center on her protest poster she carried during Saturday’s protest rally facing Palos Community Hospital.

 

            Palos Community Hospitals planned expansion of its South Campus outpatient complex in Orland Park is a hurdle closer to winning approval by state regulators.

            The $133.2 million project appears to be in conformance with state guidelines enforced by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, the board’s staff report released this week states.

            Bad news for the group trying to save Palos Health and Fitness Center from being closed by the hospital on May 1 and demolished to make way for the expansion project, the staff report indicates that its fate is not at issue.

            While the Palos Health and Fitness Center will be demolished, its closure is not subject to the jurisdiction of the HFSRB and there is no determination made on the need for this Fitness Center by the State Board Staff in this report,” the report states.

            The report is a setback for the movement of fitness center members mobilized trying to save it, many of whom took part in a protest rally Saturday near the hospital, 12251 S. 80th Ave.

            Many still plan to attend a March 29 meeting of the state board in Bolingbroke when a decision on the hospital’s permit application for a certificate of need to build the project is expected.

In a peaceable protest facing the hospital, the protesters carried their message pleading that hospital officials reconsider their planned closing of Palos Health & Fitness, 15430 West Ave.

            Waving bright yellow signs of protest, members of the grassroots Save PHFC chanted Save our Health Club! and other slogans as passersby and people exiting the hospital waved from their cars or beeped their horns in support of their cause.

            Members assembled for the rally shortly before 11 a.m. in the parking lot of the Palos Park Metra station and marched, some riding motorized scooters, the block or two to a sidewalk along 80th Avenue across from the hospitals green expanse of lawn at its front entrance.

            Young and old they gathered as Joe and Mary Ellen Smolinksi took turns with others holding a bullhorn to lead chants.

            What is the best medicine? Fitness is the best medicine! Karen Kremer, of Orland Park, repeated early on during the three-hour protest rally.

            A happy, carnival-like atmosphere prevailed among the protesters as they shared their concerns on a balmy spring day of near-perfect weather for their walk up and down 80th Avenue.

            They thanked the Palos Park police officers along the route for helping to keep them safe and staying on the sidewalk from the fairly heavy traffic on the street.

            Across the street, a couple hospital security officers stood near their SUV kept a benign watch on the protest that carefully avoided trespassing on the hospitals grounds.

            Many of the same protesters had attended the Feb. 18 hearing to consider the hospitals south campus expansion project held by the staff of the IHFSRB at the Orland Park Civic Center.

            A total of 320 people registered their attendance at that hearing, according to the IHFSRB staff report. Eleven people spoke in support and 51 in opposition to the hospital’s expansion project, the report added.

The hospital and its parent, St. George Corp., have met all of the requirements of the state board in its permit application for the expansion project, the staff report states.

“The State Board Staff finds the proposed project appears to be in conformance with the provisions” of the board’s criteria for approval.

A leader of the Save PHFC group disagreed with the staff report Tuesday. “We feel that the Palos Health and Fitness Center has evolved into truly being a health facility and therefore should now be under the jurisdiction of the board,” Mary Ellen Smolinski said. “Orland Township Supervisor sent his opinion to the IHSFRB and we concur.

We will be at the board meeting on March 29 with additional speakers to voice our opposition before the actual board votes.”

The staff report notes that the hospital “proposes a new construction and modernization project as an expansion of its South Campus outpatient complex in Orland Park at 15300 West Avenue, southwest corner of 153rd Street and West Avenue.

The report succinctly describes the hospital’s project: “The project includes three components: the construction of a four-story 107,760 gross square foot medical office building to include physician offices and diagnostic and treatment space for a variety of medical specialties; a 16,000 gross-square foot three-story building connection joining two existing office buildings and the new medical office building, which will span three floors, and a 125,000 gross square-foot below-grade parking garage.

“The new building will primarily house physician medical offices and exam rooms, offering an array of physician and related ancillary services. The ‘building connector’ will provide hallway connections joining two existing office buildings at a lower level, ground level and 2nd and 3rd floors. Each of the existing buildings will undergo modifications necessary to accommodate the building connector.”

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