VANDALIA — After tying up some loose ends this week, a Vandalia hospital is officially under full ownership by a Mattoon hospital group.
A public hearing was held in Fayette County Court Wednesday. After no objections, Fayette County Hospital is now officially under the full ownership of Sarah Bush Lincoln (SBL).
Prior to the acquisition, Fayette County taxpayers were on the hook for $550,000 in annual property taxes for the hospital. Beginning in 2023, that is being discontinued due to the new ownership. This action would also help pave the way for SBL to fully own and operate the hospital after the transfer of the assets on Thursday.
The district board for the Fayette County Hospital voted unanimously on February 28 to transfer ownership to SBL. Furthermore, the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board approved the ownership transfer a month later.
SBL had operational ownership of Fayette County Hospital
Sarah Bush Lincoln is no stranger to Fayette County Hospital, according to SBL President and CEO Jerry Esker.
“We’ve had operational ownership of Fayette County Hospital for almost three years,” Esker said. “In that time, we have become very familiar with the community and understand its medical needs.”
Esker alludes to investments that have already been made, as well as other capital projects set for the 2023 and 2024 fiscal years. The investments relate to both the hospital and the long-term care facility.
Several improvements on deck include the construction of a medical office building and renovation of the medical-surgical nursing unit. Technical improvements include the replacement of generators, computer systems, and medical equipment upgrades. Additional improvements will also include enhanced employee wages and benefits.
“Employees will receive a general wage increase,” Esker explains. “A significant number of employees will also receive market wage increases to bring their salaries in line with like hospitals.”
Investment for the future
As a part of the agreement, SBL is investing $15 million in a trust fund. The hospital district’s board would also put in roughly $4.8 million in the same fund.
With nearly $20 million in funds set aside, improvements can be made within the next two to three years. In addition, SBL will make additional investments over a five-year period, according to SBL CFO Dennis Pluard.
Pluard specifies that SBL will invest at least $1 million per year within that period for additional capital improvements.
Appreciation for prior oversight of Fayette County Hospital
Esker also adds that SBL appreciates the work and dedication of the Fayette County Hospital District Board.
“The board members really care about what is in the best interest of the community and its health,” Esker said. “Their job was not an easy job. They all took it very seriously and showed great ownership and stewardship of the organization.
“We have worked with Sarah Bush Lincoln for three years. It has done everything it promised to do and more for our hospital and long-term care. I know that our local healthcare is in good hands,” states district board chair Doug Knebel. “The entire board is excited for this change of ownership and what it means for our community.”
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