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Methodist, Proctor, and Pekin hospitals move closer to joining Carle Health

Jeff Smudde / WCBU

UnityPoint Health has signed an agreement to transfer the affiliations of Methodist, Proctor and Pekin hospitals to Carle Health.

Carle Health is based in Urbana. The hospital system manages facilities in several Illinois communities, including Eureka and Normal. The agreement would add UnityPoint - Central Illinois' hospitals to those under the Carle umbrella.

The agreement also makes Carle the parent organization of UnityPlace, Methodist College, and affiliated clinics.

"This is not a traditional purchase arrangement where those assets are being bought and sold by two health systems," said Dr. Keith Knepp, UnityPoint Health - Central Illinois president and CEO. "Rather, there's some financial consideration to account for the needs of each organization."

A joint news release from the two hospital systems claims streamlining operations as part of a larger integrated health system will bring "great community benefits and a greater understanding of the needs of patients throughout the region."

"After several years of exploration, I think we did say yes, there is a scenario here where a change in alignment at the corporate parent level could actually benefit all three organizations," Clay Holderman, the president and CEO of West Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint Health, told reporters Tuesday. He was referring to the two parent organizations and the Peoria-area hospitals.

Carle Health president and CEO Dr. James Leonard agreed.

"This is about efficiency. It's a little bit about geography, in terms of closeness, and just opportunities to become more efficient and explore things as we move forward," Leonard said.

Leonard said adding clinicians to the Carle Health system increases the availability of sub-specialty care in central Illinois, and cuts down on travel for patients seeking treatment.

Leonard said he doesn't anticipate a shakeup at the local leadership level.

"We are substituting in Carle Health for UnityPoint Health at the system level, but otherwise things will stay intact," said Leonard, noting members from the Peoria area will join the health system's board.

In fact, there aren't any layoffs planned as a result of the agreement, according to Knepp.

"All of our organizations don't have enough employees today," Knepp said. "We're facing significant workforce shortages in many areas, and we need all our team members. So we're confident we'll have a place for everyone moving forward."

UnityPoint Health - Central Illinois employs about 5,000 people in the Peoria area, according to March data from the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. That's fewer than half the 13,500 people employed by the system's Peoria-based competitor, OSF HealthCare.

UnityPoint Healthis expected to receive $75 million as part of the transfer, per regulatory documents filed in September.

The deal is anticipated to close by April 1,2023, pending regulatory approval. That's a few months later than the initial Jan. 1 expected closing date.

Until then, current services and programs will remain unchanged for patients, according to the news release. The health systems say they are working to provide a "seamless experience" for patients, employees, and community members over the next several months.

Knepp said coming into the Carle network also offers access to Health Alliance, downstate Illinois' largest health insurer.

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Updated: November 1, 2022 at 4:13 PM CDT
This story's headline was clarified to note Methodist, Proctor, and Pekin hospitals are moving closer to taking on the Carle affiliation. Each hospital still also retains its own managing board of directors.
Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.