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Senator upset with OSF, state

Ottawa Daily Times

Thursday, October 12, 2017  |  Article  |  

Health Care Rezin, Sue--State Senate 38

State Sen. Sue Rezin said this week she is "livid" that advanced life support ambulances are prohibited from going to Streator's emergency room.

Rezin, whose district includes most of La Salle County, said she became aware of the situation after The Times contacted her about it.

"This is an issue where lives are at stake," the senator said. "Seconds count. We all know that."

She blamed "the complete breakdown in the process" on both Peoria-based OSF HealthCare, which owns the outpatient center and ER in Streator, and the state Department of Public Health.

Rezin said OSF applied for a waiver in 2015 to allow all ambulances to go to Streator's ER. She wondered how it could take so long for the health department to act.

"Two years is a long time," she said. "This situation needs immediate attention. First of all, we need action on the waiver from 2015. No. 2, we need much better communication from OSF, because there has been none. The state needs to act in a prompt manner on issues such as this."

Rezin noted she sponsored the legislation to allow Streator to have an ER without inpatient services, as state law requires emergency rooms be attached to a full hospital. She said she was left with the impression the legislation would mean Streator would have facilities to handle emergency patients after Streator's St. Mary's Hospital closed in January 2016.

Before St. Mary's closed, OSF executives said it would replace the facility with an outpatient center and ER without inpatient services. They said recently they were allowed to take basic life support ambulances, but not advanced ones.

OSF officials said they have not accepted ambulances carrying patients on advanced life support because of the belief state law doesn't allow an ER without a hospital to do so.

When The Times contacted the Department of Public Health earlier this month, a spokeswoman initially said her agency believed state legislators needed to change the law to allow such ambulances to go to a freestanding ER.

In a second interview, she said the department wanted to correct its first response to say the law allowed all ambulances to go to an ER of Streator's kind. The department, she said, needed to change its internal regulations to reflect that, which she said it would likely do.

Public records showed OSF and the state hadn't written each other about the ambulance issue for nearly a year. The department indicated it had yet to act on the request for advanced ambulances.

Slightly more than half of the ambulance runs in Streator in the first seven months of the year were for patients requiring advanced life support, according to Advanced Medical Transport, the town's private ambulance provider.