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KSB’s Bright Future with OSF HealthCare

By Dave Hellmich  |  Chairperson, KSB Board of Directors

In the late afternoon on Thursday, September 8, 2022, I found myself lying in the middle of the road at the intersection of West Wasson Road and East Avenue in Amboy. Moments before, while riding my bicycle east through that intersection, I had been hit by a young driver in a pickup truck.

Good Samaritans were immediately at my side and called 911. Minutes later, the lead EMT of the ambulance crew asked me where I wanted to be transported. I said KSB Hospital.

After the 20-minute ride from Amboy to KSB, I was wheeled into KSB’s emergency room and immediately examined by a team of providers, who told me I was stable but likely had cracked ribs, contusions and cuts and that further testing was needed before ruling out internal bleeding. As soon as I could, I called my older brother Tom, an emergency room physician and  Chief of Emergency Services at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and detailed what had happened and the care I was getting. Tom asked me some clarifying questions and concluded that the KSB medical team was doing exactly what a medical team at the Mayo Clinic would do. He said, “Sounds like you are in excellent hands.”

Sixteen months later, as  Chair of the KSB Board of Directors, I found myself leading several discussions that resulted in KSB entering into exclusive negotiations with OSF HealthCare for a full merger; a merger that will end KSB’s 125-year history of being an independent hospital.

The board’s decision to direct Katherine Shaw Bethea’s administration to explore affiliation was immensely difficult because every board member respects KSB’s history and the rich legacy of Judge Solomon Bethea and the thousands of KSB providers and staff dating back to 1897. Ultimately, however, we respected even more our responsibility to do everything we could to ensure the patients and communities relying on KSB continued to have access to the highest quality medical services consistent with KSB’s mission to restore, maintain and enhance health by providing superior care now and in the future.

Nine health systems communicated their interest in the possibility of affiliating with KSB. I and four other KSB board members and senior administrators met with leadership from six of these nine systems, sharing KSB’s requirements for an affiliation and evaluating their formal presentations. Out of these six, we identified OSF HealthCare and one other system as finalists. After studying their final detailed proposals, the board unanimously voted to pursue a full merger with OSF HealthCare.

As complex as the many affiliation conversations were, the final decision to merge with OSF HealthCare became easier and easier as we learned more about OSF. Of particular importance is the  commitment of OSF to treat all patients and never deny health care to anyone who needs it, meaning people in the Sauk Valley will have access to OSF HealthCare no matter their ability to pay.

Next is the OSF HealthCare commitment to keeping care local. OSF recognizes the importance of a strong primary care presence in the Sauk Valley and hopes to expand primary care while investing in KSB’s ambulatory footprint and increased specialty outreach clinics to provide high-quality, cost-effective, localized care wherever possible. When patients need care that goes beyond what can be provided locally, attending physicians will have immediate access to patient referrals at one of the OSF Centers of Excellence, for example, their Children’s Hospital, Cancer Institute, Cardiovascular Institute, Neurological Institute, or Wound Center.

Additionally, OSF will maintain KSB’s residency programs in family medicine and podiatry, will invest $40 million or more in routine capital over five years, including strategic priorities like ambulatory expansion and IT upgrades, and will establish a community advisory council to provide local input into the healthcare needs of the Sauk Valley.

Finally, OSF leadership is excited about the quality of KSB providers and staff and will use reasonable efforts to retain all employees of KSB in comparable positions and with comparable compensation and benefits.

Overall, the board became convinced that OSF HealthCare is one of the top health systems in the country and a great place to work. OSF has been identified by Fortune Magazine as one of America’s most innovative companies, and Forbes Magazine has awarded OSF the distinction of being one of America’s best large employers and one of the best employers for women.

When I asked the EMT in Amboy to transport me to KSB, I did not care about KSB being an independent hospital. I cared only that I would get prompt, quality care . . . which is exactly what I got and is exactly what patients of KSB expect to get no matter if they are being rushed via an ambulance, seeing their primary physician for an annual checkup, or having a wonderful life-altering event like giving birth to a child or a challenging life-altering event like confronting a serious illness.

KSB’s merger with OSF HealthCare holds great promise. As the Chair of the KSB Board of Directors, I am convinced this merger will allow Judge Solomon Bethea’s life mission of providing superior local health care to live on for generations to come.