A brand new eight-story building was supposed to open its doors next spring, but stymied by a CEO ouster and then the pandemic, Cook County’s plans to revamp services at its historic Provident Hospital have been put on hold for a third time.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced the news at her regular post-board press conference on Thursday, citing a 25% increase in costs and a need to ask the state for fresh authorization to build. She said the county is using the pause as an opportunity to reassess its plans for the building, one of two hospitals that Cook County Health operates.
“Health disparities have been amplified and exacerbated,” she said. “Changes in the healthcare landscape have also impacted the way we look at our needs in the long term. We think it’s wise to take a step back at this time to thoughtfully address generational needs in the hospital’s surrounding community. And equitable impact is something we fought for and want to maintain.”
County officials first announced plans for the South Side public hospital three years ago. The new, $240 million facility would sit just west of the current one, and a would be about 20% smaller, officials said at the time. The old building would be demolished, and the new would offer more services, including MRI imaging, bariatrics, orthopedics, dental care and sports medicine. The emergency department would also have more comprehensive care.
The county’s plans got signoff from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board that fall. But months later, after a CEO shakeup in February 2020, the board governing Cook County Health hit pause on the project until a new leader had “the opportunity to become fully briefed in order to direct this project to a successful completion.”
Last June, the system’s new CEO, Israel Rocha, again announced the project would be delayed, blaming the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, he predicted construction would be delayed for at least a year.
On Thursday, Preckwinkle said supply chain issues and construction and labor costs caused the price tag for the new facility to rise to “significantly more than $300 million.” Because of those higher costs, the county needs “to voluntarily release” the certificate of need it received from the health facilities board and reapply “in the months ahead” with the new adjusted costs.
A Cook County Health spokeswoman said the current certificate of need contained the approved $240 million price tag and allowed for an overage of only 7%.
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That new application won’t come until later this year or perhaps next as the county rethinks what services the new Provident facility might offer.
The healthcare landscape in the area surrounding Provident has shifted significantly in recent years, between the growing footprint of UChicago Medicine and the once-vaunted, then dropped merger of four smaller, struggling South Side hospitals in 2020.
Preckwinkle and Rocha did not commit to a new construction timeline. “We’ve engaged a consultant to help us look at our original plan and see how that plan needs to be modified in light of the developments of the last five years,” Preckwinkle said. In the meantime, the county will still demolish the outpatient facility on the Provident campus that she said has been vacant for more than 10 years.
Rocha said the delay hasn’t dampened patient faith in Provident.
“In fact, we have added services. We most recently reopened our ICU … We have increased additional capacity for medical surgical services, we have restarted surgical services, and we have maintained our emergency department,” he said.
In the intervening years, Provident has added specialty services like a dialysis center and a modernized ophthalmology clinic.
“I know everybody would love the new (facility) as quickly as possible and that’s what we’re working to, but want to make sure it’s the right services,” Rocha said.