Advisory group is tasked with gauging viability, benefits of second hospital in city
By Ed Nadolski
Editor in Chief
Burlington Mayor Bob Miller will likely know today whether a committee of community leaders is in favor of moving ahead with discussions that could lead to construction of a second hospital in the city.
Miller said the advisory committee was scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the hospital proposal pitched recently by United Hospital System of Kenosha.
“I want to get their wishes and desires and see what they feel about this whole concept,” Miller said of the committee he formed. “I wanted to get a fresh set of eyes to give me a fresh perspective on the whole thing.”
Miller was approached by officials from United – which operates two hospitals in Kenosha and several clinics in the surrounding area – earlier this year after publicly stating that he was seeking alternatives to Aurora Health Care, which operates the Burlington Clinic and Memorial Hospital of Burlington.
The mayor made the declaration after Aurora announced late last year that it will be discontinuing labor and deliver services at Memorial Hospital in July.
Miller initially lobbied Aurora to reverse its decision. When it didn’t, he decided to reach out to other providers that may be willing to provide obstetrics services here.
What he got was an offer from United to consider building another hospital here.
Miller admitted it’s a high-stakes decision that hinges on the desires of the community and the viability of two competing health care providers in a relatively small city.
“When you look at everything involved – the number of people affected, the money – it’s a very daunting decision to make,” he said.
Last Thursday the seven members of the advisory committee along with Miller, City Administrator Kevin Lahner and Director of Administrative Services Megan Watkins met with United Hospital System officials and toured St. Catherine’s Medical Center on Kenosha’s west side.
The local contingent discussed the possibilities with members of United’s Board of Directors, administrators and leading physicians.
“We discussed various scenarios, the benefits to the city and the benefits to United,” Miller said. “Any questions asked were answered – including finances.”
In an interview with the Standard Press last month, United President and CEO Ric Schmidt said the organization will be debt-free a year from now and will be in a good position to build another facility.
He said Burlington was a logical area in which to expand services because many patients now come to United facilities from western Kenosha County. By increasing its patient pool, United could add doctors in several sub-specialties, reducing the on-call demands of physicians currently in the system.
Whether the local committee members perceive benefits to the city remains to be seen.
The committee includes attorney Dennis Lynch, insurance executive Jamie Mangold, LDV President Kurt Petrie, Fox River Bank President Keith Pollek, development company owner Peter Scherrer, Gooseberries owner David Speigelhoff and retired physician Bill Stone.