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A Publication of WTVP

How can hospitals in Peoria continue to grow in terms of patients and services when the population base for this area is rising only slowly at best? The answer lies in what we offer to the broader region that goes north to the I-80 corridor, east and west to state lines, and south to Lincoln and even Decatur and Clinton.

Over the past decades, the breadth and sophistication of services we offer in Peoria has grown dramatically. Add to that the invaluable contribution of the University of Illinois College of Medicine, and you have a formula for establishing Peoria as a center drawing patients to our community for tertiary-level services.

At any given time, OSF Saint Francis and Children’s Hospital have one-third of their inpatient beds occupied by patients from outside the Tri-County Area. This is a tribute to the physicians who offer specialized care in such diverse areas as cardiology, pediatrics, oncology, neurology and neurosurgery, trauma, and surgery.

The history of our hospitals developing as a major referral center is due to the many pioneering physicians who made an effort to reach out to distant communities, often establishing outpatient and screening clinics in those areas so that patients could be served in their hometowns.

This is all nice information, but what does it really mean to us in Peoria?

First, when we are able to offer this array of medical services to those outside our area, it means we in the Tri-County Area can also avail ourselves of this level of care. Your family members need not travel to Chicago, Iowa City or Indianapolis for complex heart surgery or the latest in pediatric care. Due to a regional referral area of over two million people, our hospitals have many sub-specialists that otherwise could be found only in large cities.

Traveling to those other cities is costly. Transportation, hotel and meal expenses, plus time away from the job, can multiply quickly and become significant, adding to the already high level of stress any family experiences in a medical emergency. By having a regional medical complex right here in Peoria, there are significant benefits for each of us. We never know when the need for a high level of medical care will be required for a family member, business associate or employee.

But there are other positive financial aspects to having a regional center in our midst.

Whenever a patient comes to Peoria from outside our immediate area, he or she brings family members who must often remain in Peoria for more than just an overnight stay. Just as we would have to pay for lodging, meals and other incidentals when we go to Chicago or St. Louis, those from outside Peoria must likewise buy services and products while here.

For those persons, coming to Peoria is still less expensive than traveling to a much larger city three or four hours away. Yet they still receive high-quality care, so it is a true benefit to them.

For our business community, these purchases of hotel rooms, gas, food and other retail items are significant. The Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that each visitor spends about $135 a day during a stay in Peoria. When we extrapolate that to the number of visitors who come to Peoria each year because of medical services, the final amount is a staggering $10 million.

Hospitals frequently become such a part of the fabric of a community’s life that they are taken for granted. At one level, that is good. We want to be considered part of the solid foundation a city must have to support a good quality of life. But we must also remind everyone of the impact we have on virtually everyone who lives here. That impact on Peoria is both medical and financial and constitutes a significant contribution to our community. IBI

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