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Cook County plans new Provident Hospital — building on history of ‘iconic South Side institution’

The proposed new hospital will include 42 medical and surgical beds, six beds in the intensive care unit, eight operating rooms and two procedure rooms, diagnostic radiology and cardiovascular imagery, an 18-bay emergency department and 70 outpatient exam rooms.

Provident Hospital of Cook County
The current Provident Hospital of Cook County at 500 E. 51st St. in 2009. File Photo
John H. White/Chicago Sun-Times)

Renowned for its medical breakthroughs and breaking barriers in the training of African American doctors and nurses, Provident Hospital is poised to write a new roughly $240 million chapter in its long history on the South Side, opening a new facility — possibly as early as 2022.

Facing Washington Park, a new hospital and outpatient medical center is to be built on land immediately west of the current hospital.

“That new building, when it opens, is going to be a manifestation of the continued pivot of the entire organization to, if you will, ‘right care, at the right time, at the right place,’” Dr. John Jay Shannon, the CEO of Cook County’s health system, said Friday.

“It’s going to be a bright, modern facility.”

It will be the fourth location for Provident, which dates back to 1891.

Initially located at 29th and Dearborn, Provident was a pioneering African American hospital and medical training ground established by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who performed the first successful open heart surgery in the nation there in 1893. It moved to 426 E. 51st Place in the 1930s. A new facility was built next door in 1982.

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, founder or Provident Hospital.
From the Vivian Harsh Collection at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library.

The replacement hospital will keep the famous name.

“It’s going to be in a neighborhood of need for sure even though ... we know gentrification is happening in a lot of different areas of the South Side. We’ve done market analysis to show that there’s still a substantial need there, but we also recognize that technology continues to improve, ambulatory services continue to improve,” Shannon said.

Located just steps from the current hospital, the new “modern facility” would be smaller than the current one. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle attributed that to changes in the health care environment, specifically to a greater emphasis on primary care to keep people out of hospitals in the first place and to more surgeries being done as outpatient procedures.

The proposed new hospital will include 42 medical and surgical beds, six beds in the intensive care unit, eight operating rooms and two procedure rooms, diagnostic radiology and cardiovascular imagery, an 18-bay emergency department and 70 outpatient exam rooms.

Those exam rooms will be used for both primary and specialty care as well as behavioral health and dental services, according to a breakdown of the proposed project.

Last month, the county health system submitted an application to the Illinois Health Facilities Services Review Board for a certificate of need to allow the proposal to move forward.

Shannon said he expects to have a hearing on the application in October. If that’s approved and all else goes as planned, the hospital could open in late 2022.

Provident Hospital
Provident Hospital at 500 E. 51st in 2006. File Photo.
Sun-Times file

The building of a new facility is partly based on the results of a 2014 study that estimated Provident needed about $104 million in infrastructure improvements the previous year.

The replacement hospital would cost about $242 million in 2013 dollars to build and maintain over 20 years, making it more cost effective than modifying the existing facilities for inpatient and outpatient services for the same period, which was estimated to cost about $298 million, according to the study.

The new facility won’t be far from the University of Chicago’s hospital. Asked why they decided to build in the city instead of other parts of the county, Shannon said the analysis that went into deciding where to build showed “there is still a substantial need in the location where we will be building this,” meaning that area residents still don’t have access to services that they need.

Cook County Health CEO John Jay Shannon and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, second from right and far right.
Cook County Health CEO John Jay Shannon and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, second from right and far right, address the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board in 2015. Also pictured are, from left, Cook County Budget Director Tanya Anthony and then CFO Ivan Samstein. File Photo.
Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times

The money to complete the project will come from about $194 million in bonds, with the county’s health system paying on the debts from the bonds and funding the remainder of the project from its budget.

Shannon said no layoffs were anticipated. The roughly 450 full-time jobs at the existing Provident Hospital will be moved over to the new facility, and it will bring in an additional 50 to 90 jobs once the building is fully operational.

Preckwinkle, the county’s health system and the Bureau of Asset Management also plan to develop a community benefits agreement for the project.

It will include “minority and women business enterprise goals and a community hiring component,” according to a news release on the project.

Originally privately run, Provident closed in 1987 due to financial problems, and the county later purchased it for a dollar. After renovations, the hospital reopened in 1993 as part of the Cook County Health System.

Cook County Board President George W. Dunne, left, and Provident Hospital officials.
Cook County Board President George W. Dunne, left, and Provident Hospital officials display a a model of a proposed replacement hospital in 1974.
Chicago Sun-Times files.

The founder did not perform his pioneering heart surgery in the current building, but Shannon said he believes the hospital has a piece of the original foundation, or a cornerstone of it.

Williams performed that historic surgery on July 10, 1893, when James Cornish was brought to the hospital with a knife wound to the heart. Williams opened his chest and operated without benefit of X-rays or antibiotics. Cornish lived another 20 years after the surgery.

Provident also provided the city’s first nursing school for black women.

Provident Hospital nursing class of 1897.
Provident Hospital nursing class of 1897.
From the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library Collection.

Shannon and others involved in the project are “very sensitive” to Provident’s legacy and plan to work with the design and architecture crews to “incorporate elements that appropriately celebrate that history” into the new hospital as development of the building moves forward.

Preckwinkle said the new Provident Hospital won’t change the historic status of the old building or the county’s health care commitment.

World heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali
World heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali wipes a tear from his eye as he congratulates his sister-in-law, Sandra Pickett Ali, as she graduates from Provident Hospital’s nursing school in 1966. File Photo.
UPI

“It’s important to remind folks that this is an iconic South Side institution and will continue to be an iconic South Side institution — and it dates back to 1891,” Preckwinkle said.

“We are committed to providing quality health care to patients throughout the county. We’ve had this Provident site as part of our health and hospital system since 1993 … We have a longstanding county commitment, as well as the previous institutional significance to the African American community as an African American owned and operated facility. And we will continue to serve the people of the mid and farther South Side of Chicago with the hospital there.”