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Christ Hospital President 'Disappointed' By Request for Additional Impact Study

Village wants medical center to pay for independent review of plans for new 9-story patient tower before approving Advocate Christ's zoning variances.

The Oak Lawn Planning and Development Commission want to because there are still too many “unknowns” about traffic, flood control and economic impact on the village.

Steve Radice, chair of the plan commission, told hospital officials on Monday that commissioners still don’t have enough information to recommend the medical center’s nine zoning variances for approval by the

“We want to get it right,” Radice said. “I can’t go through with this and feel 100 percent comfortable. It’s bigger than anything [the village] has ever dealt with.”

The latest addition to the medical center campus is part of a $600 million expansion plan to increase capacity and eventually update older buildings on the campus, including The 9-story tower of up to 170 feet will located on the east side of the campus facing Kostner on the site of an existing parking garage.

A new garage will be built in the street lot across Kostner. The garage would be connected to the patient tower by a pedestrian bridge over Kostner.

Advocate Christ President Ken Lukhard said the patient tower would increase capacity, including adding 14 new operating rooms and doubling the size of the emergency department.

The hospital turned away between 5,000 and 8,000 patients last year because there were no available beds. Last year, the emergency department closed for 1,100 hours, diverting patients to other hospitals because it had reached full capacity.

Lukhard told plan commissioners that the medical center wasn’t expecting a vote Monday night.

“We’re not a laid-back community hospital,” Lukhard said. “This is a hospital that is designed to treat the sickest of the sick. If you can look me in the face and tell me that prefer to risk that extra hour and send a loved one with a brain bleed downtown than I want to talk to you about it.”

While no one in the room disagreed that Advocate Christ was one of the top hospitals in the nation, some residents who live near the medical center said they felt "blindsided" by the latest building proposal.

Lukhard told the audience that Advocate had unveiled its 10-year expansion plan in 2008, but tabled it when the economy tanked. He said the medical center has been completely “transparent” with village leaders.

“We’ve been up front for six years,” the hospital president said. “We talked about this with the mayor and the village manager for six years about a campus expansion plan that would have phases. We’ve not blindsided the village with any of this.”

Lukhard said he wasn’t given the go-ahead to publicly talk about the proposed patient tower until after the last fall because Advocate’s corporate board wasn’t sure if it could raise the money.

He said that a model and architectural renderings on what the patient tower would look like haven't been completed yet.

The hospital president also extolled the economic benefits the medical center had brought to the community, including employing 600 local residents at a payroll of $22 million. Lukhard said the new patient tower would provide an additional 150 jobs.

Radice asked the medical center to pay for an impact study to address infrastructural concerns by an independent third party "as a cost of doing business" in the village.

“We want to get it right,” Radice said. “I can’t go through with this and feel 100 percent comfortable. It’s bigger than anything [the village] has ever dealt with.”

Lukhard complained the hospital has already spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies” and “millions on design.”

“We have all the plans done,” he said.

Taking Lukhard to task, Village Manager Larry Deetjen called the expense for paying for one more study “miniscule.”

“The project is not right to be approved tonight,” Deetjen said to residents’ applause. “All we’re asking for is a little more time. Residents have many constructive comments and we’re almost there … we don’t have to reinvent the wheel but there are some key pinpointed issues that if we can agree, we can get them resolved.”

Advocate Christ hopes to have state approvals in the fall so that it can begin construction.

The Planning and Development Commission voted 5-2 to continue the public hearing until its next meeting on May 21. John Eggert and Tim Reilly were the dissenting votes.

Lukhard expressed his disappointment with having to do another study, inciting a hail of fury from the village manager.

“You say you’re disappointed that a lot of work has been done that hasn’t been fully embraced,” Deetjen said. “You haven’t even mentioned the sanitary sewer and the lift station. I will submit to you there has been no public discussion of that, but it has been in your purview for several years to address.”

CD July 20, 2012 at 02:50 AM
I have to say Advocate Christ *was* pretty bad up until several years ago when Ken Lukhard took over. The patient satisfaction, physician satisfaction, and nurse satisfaction scores have double or tripled since then. The problems you mention are due to a small ER having to take care of all of south side Chicago and northwest Indiana; and a tiny number of operating rooms. That's why they need an expansion. Christ obviously does hire Oak Lawn residents, but I don't know that they can legally prefer OL residents over other applicants.
CD July 20, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Kenneth Lukhard is the spelling.
CD July 20, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Mr Walsh, as of the time you wrote this the high rise condos on 95th Street already exist and are certainly over four stories - are we not already equipped to deal with them?
J. J. Zurek July 20, 2012 at 05:46 AM
Ken Lukhard Stop the Building, Stop the Construction, lay off all of your employees, have your Contractors lay off the Trades People, Move your hospital to a place in Will or Kankakee County where the Superior Medical Staff and Support Staff will be appreciated and save lives, leave the entire South and Southeast and Southwest burbs without a level four (4) Trauma Center. So all of the Police Officers and Fire Fighters and the Residents can get into an Ambulance and ride for another 30 plus minutes to Stroger Hospital or Northwestern Hospital, so Mr. Deetjen and the B & Z Board can decide on how or whom can build on 95th and Kostner into a booming TAX CASH COW DISTRICT, so the residents can find more fast food debris all over their lawns and more people driving thru their neighborhood, so Oak Lawn can experience another fiasco on 95th Street just so they can all go by the wayside like the last administration. In the Alternative give the Village their $1.00 per car tax that they wanted originally and you could build whatever is necessary without any impact study, as long as you build enough parking spaces to equal the amount of taxes that all of the Fast Food places generate and Mr. Deetjen and the B & Z Committee will give you whatever variences you need, because it is easier for all to pay a $1.00 tax to Oak Lawn and the Visitors paying think that the Hospital is just making a few more bucks Your problems only began when you went to free parking, remember that next time.
J. J. Zurek July 20, 2012 at 05:50 AM
Better yet charge $2.00 per can to park, and put right on the Ticket Stub, $1.00 for the Hope Children Hospital to defry the costs of the Children who are covered by medicade and $1.00 for the Village of Oak Lawn, in big bold print

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