• Megann Horstead

Joliet hospital embarks on multimillion-dollar ‘Heart Hospital within a Hospital’ campaign


AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center is eying a multimillion-dollar project that would create space for a heart hospital in the existing hospital.

At Tuesday’s campaign kickoff, community leaders, medical center leadership, physicians and staff came together to learn of future renovations planned for the hospital and how people can get involved.

“AMITA has chosen us to be the recipient of a new heart hospital with a hospital,” said Jay Bergman, a member of the AMITA Presence Central and Suburban Hospital Board of Directors and a member of the AMITA Presence Chicago Hospital Network Board of Directors. “We’ve got to do our part. We’ve got to help out. It’s expensive.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to Center for Disease Control. About 630,000 Americans die from heart disease each year.

The goal, officials said, is to raise between $3 and 5 million to make the project possible. Proposed renovations consist of adding a new hybrid cardiac catheterization lab.

Saint Joseph Medical Center is already equipped with, among other things, three catheterization labs, a cardiac intensive care unit, progressive care unit, cardiopulmonary rehab and a heart failure clinic.

“This is the heart hospital of the south,” said Herb Buchanan, president and CEO of Saint Joseph Medical Center. “It just so happens in the south we have Joliet and La Grange. … The south really is the heart of AMITA Health, as it should be.”

Saint Joseph Medical Center has a history of serving residents of the Joliet area for nearly 30 years. According to its website, the hospital “includes a nationally recognized heart and vascular program that can handle even the most complex procedures.”

Saint Joseph Medical Center hasn’t always been affiliated with AMITA Health. Bergman explained that regionalization and mergers have played a role in the way the health care industry operates. AMITA Health system was formed years ago to update the facilities and equipment at hospitals.

“There’s not a whole lot of money left at the end of the day due to the current way of doing things,” Bergman said. “That’s really why mergers have taken place.”

The health care system, in general, has had its share of ups and downs over the years.

Saint Joseph Medical Center is working to refocus and determine what’s the best course of action to take moving forward.

“It’s a competitive environment—no question about it,” Buchanan said. “We’re optimistic because as we take this time restructuring and taking advantage of services that our sponsors have to offer, we know that we can be more efficient, more focused.”

Buchanan said a lot of work is necessary to keep hospital systems going. He said it’s amazing to see how far Saint Joseph Medical Center has come since its humble beginning.

“It was the jewel, I believe, at one point of the Provena system, and many of you are pining for the days—as are we—when Saint Joe’s will become the jewel of AMITA Health,” Buchanan said. “We have plans to do that.”

Dr. Rudy Altergott, a cardiac surgeon for Saint Joseph Medical Center, said the need for a hybrid cardiac catheterization lab is clear.

“It’s been a nice long run, but we’d like to keep it going,” he said.

Saint Joseph Medical Center has performed close to 10,000 heart surgeries over nearly 30 years.

Several officials Tuesday made mention of how vital the community’s support of the hospital is is.

Saint Joseph Medical Center is seeking help from the community over the next nine months to help pay for renovations

The project’s timeline has a projected 2020 completion date.

“This hybrid room becomes really an important point in our evolution and progress towards becoming a regional center,” Altergott said.

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