OSF Center for Health – Streator blessed; seen as new model of rural health care

Designed as a "health care village," the new OSF Center for Health – Streator will make a variety of community resources available to people, as well as provide access to medical care in an effort to given patients better control over their health care, according to officials. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

STREATOR — With prayer, holy water and applause, the OSF Center for Health Streator became the “epicenter” for a new model of rural health care on Dec. 5.

“There are a lot of eyes on us across the state and across the nation to see how we here in Streator navigate this change and we create a new path forward together,” said Carol Friesen, CEO of OSF HealthCare’s Northern Region, at the blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremony. “A lot of people are curious and they’re watching to see if we will create that sustainable balance that enables communities to thrive and people to be served with the greatest care and love.”

Msgr. Philip Halfacre, vicar general for the Diocese of Peoria, sprinkles holy water on those who filled the atrium of the new OSF Center for Health – Streator as a sign of blessing on Dec. 5. Each floor had been blessed as it was completed. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

The new Center for Health is located in the redesigned, renovated space that was once St. Mary’s Hospital, part of Hospital Sisters Health System. When the decision was made to close the hospital at 111 Spring St. in 2016, OSF HealthCare acquired the building and repurposed it as an outpatient center with the state’s first freestanding emergency center.

The goal is to create a “health care village” that supports technology and gives people access to a variety of providers and community agencies while addressing their medical needs, according to Don Damron, vice president of ambulatory services for OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center in Ottawa.

“When you walk into the Center for Health, we don’t want you to think of it just to come and get clinical services when you’re sick. We really see it as a community hub of resources, to come and be and stay healthy,” he told The Catholic Post.

Among the many community partners making this possible are the American Cancer Society, North Central Behavioral Health Systems, LaSalle County Health Department, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and Guardian Angel Outreach of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria, which will “co-locate” to the center in January.

Sharon Warfield, director of Guardian Angel Outreach, and Sister Michelle Fernandez, SCTJM, executive director of Catholic Charities, look forward to the expanded ability to help mothers and broader visibility the move will bring.

“Since people come here for their doctors, then it will be easier to use these services, as well,” said Sister Michelle.


Speaking of the tradition of Catholic health care in Streator, Sister Diane Marie McGrew, OSF, president of OSF HealthCare, noted that the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis had similar missions, each responding to a call for help.

Cutting the ribbon for the new OSF Center for Health – Streator are (from left) Sister Jomary Trstensky, Sister Christia Ann Struewing, and Sister Maureen O’Connor of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, and Sister Agnes Joseph Williams, Sister Diane Marie McGrew, and Sister M. Mikela Meidl of OSF HealthCare. The building formerly served as St. Mary’s Hospital, part of Hospital Sisters Health System. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“For both Catholic orders, those founding Sisters shared a love for the Lord and his people,” she said. “They also shared a call to serve others that still drives everything we do.”

Sister Diane Marie said that when St. Mary’s Hospital opened in 1888, it represented “a brave step forward” for health care in Streator, “one built on the foundations of love, grace and hope.”

“Today, this Center for Health has lovingly been rebuilt as a place of partnership, peace, physical and spiritual prosperity. It is my hope and my prayer that this new center will represent those same foundations and ensure a healthier future for all those that we serve,” she said.

Taking part in the ribbon cutting and receiving a section of the red ribbon were three members of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis from Springfield, all of whom had ministered as nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital in Streator. Sister Maureen O’Connor, provincial superior; Sister Christa Ann Struewing, provincial vicaress; and Sister Jomary Trstensky, chair of the Hospital Sisters Ministries Board, offered their good wishes and prayers for the success of the OSF Center for Health Streator.

“I’m pleased to see the hospital is going to continue to provide health care in a different way. I really wish the world to the Sisters who are putting this together,” said Sister Jomary, who opened the first intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Hospital. “I’m going to be following this model because we’re in health care in Illinois and Wisconsin and we’re interested in providing good care to people in rural communities.” (For more comments, see the related story here.)


Ken Beutke, president of OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center in Ottawa, said it was his hope that the new Center for Health would serve as “a beacon of light that helps us keep our eyes on our goals and leads us to a healthier community.”

He pointed to the Christmas tree that dominated one corner of the atrium and the star that topped it — a reminder of the star that led the three wise men to Jesus.

“It’s a reminder that even the wisest of us can benefit from the Lord’s guidance on our journey,” he said, calling for the lights on the tree to be turned on. “We thank God for the light with which he shows us the way and we pray for the vision we need to see the path he has laid before us so that we might not stray from it.”

The blessing was offered by Father Michael Driscoll, pastoral care program manager and chaplain at OSF HealthCare Saint Elizabeth Medical Center in Ottawa, and Msgr. Philip Halfacre, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria, who sprinkled holy water on those assembled.

A buffet luncheon and tours of the building followed the ribbon cutting.

Only a wall separates the chapel, which was relocated and “right sized” for the OSF Center for Health – Streator, from the freestanding emergency center. While the new Center for Health isn’t open 24 hours a day, as St. Mary’s Hospital was, the emergency center is and the chapel is available to anyone seeking it. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

After the ceremony, Damron said that many of the factors in rural and urban health care are the same, with clinical care making up about 30 percent of them and genetics another 10 percent of the total. Social determinants account for the rest, he said.

“Although the challenges are the same, the strategies and the barriers for addressing them are much different when you get to this part of the country,” Damron told The Post.

“How do we redesign our care teams better to address the patient’s need? How do we bring in technology to increase access and enable people to be empowered in their own care when we know transportation and things like that are a barrier,” he said. “And then how, in rural communities, where there are limited resources, do we collaborate?”

No one can do it alone, so minimizing competition and increasing collaboration is the only way to make this care sustainable, Damron explained.

In addition to community partners co-locating to the Center for Health, he said, there are a mobile care unit and faith community nurse that can help people get connected and receive the care they need where they are.

“What excites me is the commitment of OSF HealthCare and the Sisters,” he said. “This is not a project. This is not a research study. . . . This is an extension and a commitment of the mission of OSF HealthCare and our Sisters to serve persons with the greatest care and love.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the blessing have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook.

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