Sherman Hospital in Elgin opened two years ago and its parent system has held talks with several networks, including Oak Brook-based Advocate Health Care. The trend highlights the fight for independence facing Joliet's Silver Cross Hospital, slated to open a $370-million facility in nearby New Lenox next year.
These hospitals combined carry almost $1.3 billion in long-term debt, most of it incurred to finance glitzy new buildings. Even as the boom began, the health care industry was changing: Patients who once filled hospital beds are visiting out-patient clinics or primary care physicians instead. Health insurance companies and Medicare continue to cut reimbursement rates while the costs to adapt to the federal overhaul of health care reform mount.