A Publication of WTVP

OSF Saint Francis Medical Center lost a treasured leader in May, when Sister M. Canisia Gerlach died at age 96. She served as Administrator of OSF Saint Francis for 38 years, from 1960 to 1998. Talk about a time of change! During her tenure, Sister Canisia saw the number of licensed beds soar from just over 200 to more than 900, before settling in at our current level of 616. She managed a hospital that was one of the biggest in Illinois at the time. Sister Canisia also oversaw two major building projects, including construction of the critical care addition that opened in 1986 and bears her name, the Gerlach building.

When she was still hospital administrator, I took eight Sisters/board members to a 247-acre piece of property along Route 91, just past Hoerr Nursery. There was nothing else there at the time. The leadership at OSF Saint Francis and at the corporate office recognized in the late 1990s there would need to be a change in the way we delivered healthcare services. If we could provide the care needed, including surgical procedures, on an outpatient basis, we felt that would be better and more cost-effective for our patients.

But the Sisters were concerned—would the growth projected for that end of Peoria actually happen? Remember, this was long before the Shoppes at Grand Prairie or anything else. Based on extensive information on Growth Cell 3 (as it was known) given to us by the City, and after much prayerful thought, the Sisters decided to move forward with the same faith their pioneer Sisters had shown when they first arrived in Peoria 135 years ago. They also decided the property would only be used for medical purposes or support services. We opened a centralized data information center on the north end of the property last year, and a much-needed hospice home is planned for the grounds. Physician partners have opened offices there as well. We have turned away a variety of requests from restaurants, car dealers and other retail outlets to locate on the property.

In June, the Center for Health-Route 91 celebrated its 10th anniversary. Risky at the time, the $38 million investment in the local economy has paid off. We now have three Centers for Health and a patient care delivery model that is forever changed. No longer do patients need to travel to our downtown campus for a variety of procedures. Last year, 158,471 visits and procedures took place at the Route 91 facility.

Rick Thomas, executive director of ambulatory services, sums up anticipated future changes best. “Under national healthcare reform, OSF Saint Francis will have to be proactive in managing the health of a population of patients, encouraging them to live healthier lifestyles,” he said. “While hospitalizations and procedures will always be necessary, ambulatory services will (also) take on growing responsibilities in wellness, fitness, mental well-being, etc. In order to make this shift in care management, OSF must restructure to melt the walls that have historically had us operating in silos.”

Evidence of this transition is already visible through the leadership of our system CEO, Kevin Schoeplein, who is leading the change toward “one OSF,” and ultimately, a better care model for our patients.

While we celebrate 10 years for the Center for Health-Route 91, we also mark one year of another milestone: the newest building on our campus, home to Children’s Hospital of Illinois, opened its doors in July 2010. There were a number of changes that had to be made by our staff because of the new facility, and I am proud to say they rose to the occasion.

Change is never easy, but it is often necessary and we are excited about what lies ahead. We also know that as much as things change, sometimes it’s best to remember the example of those who came before us. I fondly remember Sister Canisia often saying, “We do the best we can and leave the rest to God,” something she truly embodied as a servant leader. Our staff and patients have all been richly blessed by her presence among us. iBi