With the prospect that Bloomington Hospital might move from its downtown location, mayoral candidates Darryl Neher and John Hamilton are urging IU Health to stay on its Second Street location. In December, the Bloomington Herald-Times reported that IU Health submitted a formal request for a new replacement facility.
As of now, the location of a potential new facility is being debated by IU Health.
In an interview with the Herald-Times, IU Health Bloomington Hospital president and CEO Mark Moore said the board of directors plans to come to a decision by this February. “I think IU Health and Bloomington Hospital needs to do right by the community and stay in our downtown,” Neher said about IU Health’s pending decision. “But given their inaction and lack of engagement, we need to make sure we continue this conversation in a way that is willing to discuss accountability and how we move forward from this point on.”
The possible new site for Bloomington Hospital is North Park off of Curry Pike, where IU Health owns land, but city officials are trying to convince the IU Health board of directors to renovate the current site. Both candidates said they are worried about the potential negative economic impact for the city if Bloomington Hospital moves. Currently, Bloomington Hospital is located downtown, easily accessible for many of Bloomington’s residents who work there and go as patients.
According to U.S. News and World Report, Bloomington Hospital employs 856 people, full-time and part-time, making it one of the larger employers in the city.“This is a once in a century kind of decision,” said Hamilton, Democratic candidate for mayor. “It is incredibly important for the sustainability of our city, for downtown vitality, for economic health and for helping people live and work close together.”
Neher, who mentioned the issue in his campaign announcement speech, said the city has been trying to work with IU Health on this issue since 2007 and has been disappointed with IU Health’s engagement on the issue. Moore said he has yet to make a decision and Hamilton said he trusts the Bloomington Hospital president will give both sites fair consideration. If Bloomington Hospital does move to the North Park site, its location would be closer to Interstate 69, which is currently being built in the western portion of the county.
Some argue the North Park location would give easier access to out-of-county patients, which make up approximately 50 percent of all patients at Bloomington Hospital, Moore said in a an interview with the Herald-Times. “I think it’s a red herring,” Hamilton said of the North Park’s access to I-69. “I think it is true that the hospital would want good access to the highway, but whether it’s two and a half minutes off the highway or four and a half minutes off the highway is not a big difference in terms of what people are looking for.”
Both current mayor Mark Kruzan and former mayors John Fernandez and Tomi Allison have said they want to see IU Health keep Bloomington Hospital where it currently is. Neher said the process frustrates him, especially given that the city has tried to offer solutions to IU Health’s concerns. “Me and other city leaders have been trying to engage hospital leadership offering solutions to keep the hospital downtown,” Neher said. “But that lack of engagement has made it pretty clear that they’re not ready to have that dialogue at this point.”