Accessible, quality care for the region

Published Date:

By Jerry Kruse, CEO of SIU Medicine

In recent weeks, questions related to access to health care in central Illinois have become loud and pronounced.  News stories, legislative hearings, personal testimony and inaccurate information have all contributed to confusion and disagreement about the availability and quality of care in the region. 
The lives of thousands of people have been disrupted by the impasse between Springfield Clinic and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. SIU Medicine has worked to accommodate the patients that have been caught in the middle of this impasse.  We desire that patients in all of the communities we serve know that we are here to move their health forward.  We gladly take the position of advocate and champion for the health and health care of the people of our region.

The professionals of SIU Medicine provide a large amount of the health care in central Illinois.  SIU Medicine has 290 full-time physicians and more than 200 other health care professionals that provide direct care. Additionally, there are 392 resident physicians that hold a license to practice medicine in the State of Illinois, and have chosen to continue their education at SIU Medicine in order to become board certified in a particular specialty of medicine.  While they are learning new information, they are also highly capable practitioners who add excellence to the care provided by SIU Medicine.
One department that deserves recognition is our Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In the Springfield – Jacksonville area, SIU Medicine has 18 board-certified obstetricians who deliver babies.  There are 19 resident physicians in obstetrics and gynecology, and we also have several family physicians and midwives who deliver babies in Springfield.  We care for virtually all high-risk pregnancies in the area through the South-Central Illinois Perinatal Center, a vast network that covers a swath of 36 counties in central Illinois.  We accomplish this through the work of 5 SIU perinatologists (obstetricians with high-risk pregnancy specialty fellowship training), 9 SIU attending physician obstetricians that are on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 10 SIU neonatologists. This network of professionals allows SIU Medicine to provide obstetric care of the highest quality and gives us the capacity to care for more pregnancies, both high and low risk.  
SIU Medicine is dedicated to the highest quality of health care for every patient, family and community with which we interface.  We place a special emphasis on the provision of care for all people, striving for equity in access and in professional interactions, and engaging all people, including those who are underserved and marginalized.  We do this through team-based care that is best achieved by a complement of physicians and other health professionals, scientists, and learners.  It is a type of care that is the best for people of every walk of life and who have every type of insurance.
Across the U.S., health care that is provided in the context of medical schools receives the highest quality marks.  SIU Medicine usually ranks in the top 5 in quality out of 110 Independent Practice Associations in Illinois. No other local group can claim this level of quality scores.  Quality reporting through Medicare also pushes SIU medicine to the top.  We have historically had the highest quality ratings in central Illinois. 
It is also important to understand the forces that are now shaping the future of health care. Organizations backed by private equity companies have begun to purchase practices in central and western Illinois. This is a worrisome trend that may expand.  While Congress actively attempts to rein in the involvement of private equity groups in health care, such groups are buying private physician practices at an accelerating pace. What happens when these purchases occur?  Profits rise for investors, costs rise for citizens and communities, access suffers, and health outcomes worsen.  Individuals become the pawns in the health care chess game.  The citizens, and often those who provide the health care, become nothing more than a traded commodity.  As we consider access and quality, we all should be aware of this trend and the potential negative outcomes.
SIU Medicine provides a vast amount of care, and has the capacity to care for more.  We have had a net gain of more than 50 physicians in the past three years. The quality of care is very, very high.  We stand ready to care for anyone who desires our care, and we pledge to work in our communities to break down any barriers to care.
We understand the extreme value of continuity of care for patients with their physicians, and we will aggressively advocate for this, for all physician groups.  We understand the value of care when it is immediately needed.  We stand ready to provide it.  We will continue to champion equitable access for all.
Jerry Kruse, MD, MSPH
Dean and Provost, SIU School of Medicine
CEO, SIU Medicine

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