Cutting the commute: Local hospitals compete with Chicago care

2012-08-24T22:00:00Z 2012-08-26T01:52:03Z Cutting the commute: Local hospitals compete with Chicago careVanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

Living in the northwest corner of the state, region residents long have appreciated their proximity to Chicago.

Museums, professional sporting events, entertainment and jobs are an expressway or train ride away.

When serious illness hits, people often turn to Chicago, thinking the medical services are just as grand as its other amenities.

The outmigration that has people crossing the state line for health care may be a waste of gas because local hospitals offer many of the same procedures and technology as the big-name Chicago hospitals, officials say.

“Northwest Indiana hospitals offer advanced technologies, treatment options, research opportunities and physicians who are experts in their field, so patients do not need to travel outside our community,” said Donald Fesko, CEO of The Community Hospital in Munster.

Fesko said Northwest Indiana hospitals are nationally recognized for exceptional quality outcomes by outside organizations.

“These quality, outcome and safety ratings place Northwest Indiana hospitals among the best in delivering consistent, high levels or patient care and providing the best value in health care to patients,” he said.

The Chicago skyline is visible on a clear day from the new Porter Regional Hospital, but CEO Jonathan Nalli said word is spreading that the region offers modern care so people don't need to head to Chicago for the best treatment.

"The level of service has reduced out-migration," he said. "A lot fewer people leave, and more are staying close to home."

Franciscan Alliance Northern Indiana Region CEO Gene Diamond said there are risks and benefits associated with every hospital.

“People in Northwest Indiana can be satisfied that there's top-quality care provided here in Northwest Indiana,” Diamond said. “But, at the same time, when a patient has a specific, unique health care need, the expertise to deal with that specific, unique problem should be sought out wherever it is.”

Region residents diagnosed with cancer may seek treatment in Chicago, thinking it offers the most cutting-edge technology. But, they often are referred for treatment to radiation oncologists back in Indiana, Diamond said.

People tend to equate hospitals that are linked to academic facilities as having the best care available, but often those institutions approach patients as cases to study, he said.

Methodist Hospitals CEO Ian McFadden said Northwest Indiana residents have access to top-flight medical care in their home communities.

He referenced Methodist's robotic surgery equipment, three-dimensional mammography, stroke care, Oncology Institute and Heart and Vascular Institute, among a host of available treatments.

Fesko said Community Hospital's accredited breast care program is an example of medical and hospital staff collaboration that exceeds the standard of care in the medical industry.

“A multidisciplinary team of surgeons, dedicated breast radiologists, radiation and medical oncologists, plastic and reconstructive surgeons, geneticists, breast health patient navigators, physical therapists and nutrition specialists work together to develop the best care plan for our patients,” Fesko said.

Patients have access to advanced radiation oncology options and same-day mammography results, something not available at all of the other medical centers in the Chicago region, he said.

But the region still lacks in trauma care. There are no designated trauma centers in Northwest Indiana.

To receive trauma care, patients will be transported to outside areas, such as Chicago and South Bend, for treatment, as recent legislation requires trauma patients to be taken to a designated trauma center, McFadden said.

“This is why Methodist Hospitals is currently working to gain designation as a trauma center, which we expect to happen in the next 12 months,” he said.

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