Commissioners Debunk Hospital Rumors

Starke County government officials are negotiating with Community Health Systems over construction of a new building to replace the existing IU Health Starke Hospital.

The Starke County Commissioners last week reaffirmed their commitment to building a new hospital in Knox. County officials are still negotiating with Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, which recently acquired 80-percent ownership of IU Health Starke and LaPorte Hospitals. The county owns the current hospital building and land on which it sits. Commissioner Kathy Norem quoted an email received by the commissioners stating they are “ignorant, clueless and intentionally blocking the building of a new facility.” She says they want to ensure adequate services are provided.

“Every elected official here this evening is a longtime resident of this community. We all use the hospital, and we depend on its existence to provide medical, surgical and emergency services for ourselves, our families and our constituency. Certainly we recognize the value of the hospital and not just in terms of the medical services provided, but also as an economic powerhouse in our community. Without a hospital, a poor community is only going to get poorer.”

The commissioners voted unanimously to extend the notice period with CHS by 90 days and agreed to schedule public meetings during that time to share information with both hospital employees and the public at large. Norem says they want to ensure everyone knows what’s really going on. She says the commissioners are interested in a new hospital, but more than that they want to ensure people maintain their jobs and necessary services are provided.

County Attorney Marty Lucas adds CHS has requested confidentiality to the extent allowed by law with regard to the negotiations.

“We’re not as free to share information at this point as we’d like, but, on the converse of that, before any deal is actually agreed to, the public will know everything. That’s what these public meetings are about, to bring that to the public a little more. I just want you to understand that’s a little bit of a challenge.”

Dates for the public meetings have not yet been announced. As soon as they are, we will share them during our newscasts and on our Community Calendar page. Additionally, in our commitment to full public disclosure and transparency, we will share the entire discussion about the hospital, including public comments, on the Sunday, April 3 Kankakee Valley Viewpoints program. It airs at noon Central on K99.3 WKVI FM.