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A Publication of WTVP

One of the key economic drivers for Peoria is the medical community. During the early stages of Peoria NEXT, Dr. Richard Lister made nearly 300 presentations outlining the vast capabilities of our medical community if viewed as a “Downstate Medical Center”—a virtual academic medical center that included the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria (UICOMP), Methodist, OSF, Proctor, the physician community, and other related medical education and research components. Together, we’re larger than the University of Iowa’s Health System, Indiana University’s School of Medicine, and almost every medical/health care organization in Illinois. Taken together, our capabilities are quite impressive.

It’s my understanding the term “Downstate Medical Center” was created in the 1980s. Accordingly, signs that list a “Downstate Medical Center” were erected. One is very visible rounding I-74 heading west into Peoria at Exit 94.

Unfortunately, for more than 20 years, the realization of a true Downstate Medical Center hasn’t materialized. Over the last several years, as Peoria NEXT and other community initiatives began, the energy and enthusiasm for a real Downstate Medical Center began to re-emerge. Dr. Lister’s presentation re-ignited what a huge potential the non-medical community could realize from this vision.

What was once Peoria’s best kept secret, UICOMP, has now become known as a critical component for Peoria—not only for the quality of care, but for the future of Peoria NEXT and the research initiatives we hope to stimulate that will lead to jobs and economic opportunities.

Implicit in the development of the Downstate Medical Center is certainly the enhancement of medical offices and physician groups being physically and clinically integrated. It’s hard to have a Downstate Medical Center without a large number of strong, committed physicians or physician groups. Unfortunately, four large physician groups already have left or will be leaving their current locations within walking distances of UICOMP, Methodist, and OSF. A fifth is very likely to leave, according to a recent public announcement. Even the potential physician office building on the UICOMP campus is uncertain.

The implications are many. Not only will health care become more fragmented and more costly, but the economic implications for the city and major institutions—including Bradley University, the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, and Caterpillar—will be negative.

As the physician groups scatter throughout Peoria, the loss of business downtown will be felt. Sadly, the neighborhoods working very hard to re-invigorate themselves will be further challenged. It’s truly disheartening to see physician groups be recruited away, encouraged to leave, and potentially incentivized to move away from downtown and the medical and community institutions that are so important to the future of Peoria.

Is the Downstate Medical Center a lost opportunity?

It would seem appropriate to remove the signs that identify the Downstate Medical Center. It’s a tragic reminder of our failure to implement something so many people realized long ago should have worked. IBI

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