Defying the odds: Saint Anthony Hospital remains independent and financially stable

Another big part of Saint Anthony’s strategy is engaging with the community. Saint Anthony has had a community wellness program for about 20 years and it has grown under Medaglia’s leadership.

The department is fully staffed with 36 people. Free mental health services are offered along with wellness screenings and health education at its three community centers. Additionally, Saint Anthony has made a diligent effort to partner with community organizations including local churches and not-for-profits such as the Lawndale Christian Legal Center, which offers legal and social services to the community. Saint Anthony leaders are also present when violence happens in the community to offer support.

“If there is a prayer service in the community, it’s not unlikely you will find someone from Saint Anthony there. I’ve been at a prayer service at 12 a.m. where violence happened,” said Jim Sifuentes, senior vice president for mission and community development.

Saint Anthony recently received a $1 million state grant as part of the Victims of Crime Act, which allowed the hospital to place additional therapists and community organizers throughout the community to help victims of violence.

“Most of the people in these communities, if they haven’t experienced trauma directly, just by the nature of living in these communities, they have seen or heard about it in some capacity,” Sifuentes said.

Also under Medaglia’s leadership, Saint Anthony has worked to counter a long-held stereotype that it’s a hospital just for the Latino community because of the neighborhood’s demographics. Medaglia and other Saint Anthony leaders have connected with the large black community by attending local church services to gain trust and familiarity.

Medaglia said he’s quiet about Saint Anthony’s community work, and the hospital rarely holds media events about it. “I’ve got this belief that no one is interested in what’s going on at 19th and California because we are a small facility, but as long as we are able to help people, that’s why we are here,” he said.

But Schroeder at PA Consulting said it has served Saint Anthony well to get to know its community. The hospital makes smart investments it knows its patients need. For instance, it was the first Illinois hospital to put in place the baby box program—offering expectant mothers specially equipped boxes to serve as an infant’s first bed—along with an education component. The internationally recognized program is a way to prevent sudden infant death syndrome.

“They are leveraging this in a new way by combining it with education. That is an interesting example of knowing who their demographic is and leveraging innovation around that,” Schroeder said.

Saint Anthony’s consideration for its community is also visible in its plans for a new campus. The current hospital building, which is over 125 years old, is too expensive to maintain, so Medaglia began plans to build a new hospital about four years ago.

After studying the community with help from the University of Nebraska, Saint Anthony learned that patients wanted more than just a new hospital, but a hub where they can get care, shop and spend time with family and friends.

Along with a new 150-bed hospital, the 32-acre campus, which will open sometime in 2021, will have more than 250,000 square feet of retail along with a child-care center, an outpatient and specialty clinic, a recreation center and an education center.

“If you are living in this community and you want to have a wedding or you want to have a birthday party, there is no place around here, it’s someone’s home, so we are going to have social rooms,” Medaglia said.

The hospital decided not to increase its current bed size with the new building but it will have private rooms. “I see beds going away.” Medaglia said. “I saw them going away back in 2007 when I came to this place; 150 beds are about right for our community with more emphasis on outpatient.” Saint Anthony has five outpatient clinics.

Saint Anthony didn’t have the capital to build a new hospital campus, so Medaglia created a not-for-profit company separate from Saint Anthony called Chicago Southwest Development Corp. Saint Anthony will pay rent as a tenant and all company profits will be reinvested back into the community, Medaglia said. The development has attracted investors to pay for the project.

“This community is filled with trauma. They worry about their kids getting shot or they are beaten, so we need to make this community better and this is going to help,” he said.

Considering the community’s unique needs, Medaglia said he has no interest in finding a parent for Saint Anthony.

“It’s tough being part of a system. … When you are independent you are accountable to the community,” he said. “The only people we owe are our vendors and our employees and it allows us to do more work in the community.”

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