PEKIN — Pekin has a new facility to help Pekin area patients stay in their own community for healthcare instead of crossing the river to Peoria.

Monsignor Michael Bliss, director of pastoral care at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, on Thursday performed a blessing of the new OSF HealthCare Center for Health-Pekin and the people who will work there. 

The center will be open for business on April 17. It is located in the former Big Lots building at East Court Village I in Pekin. A public open house for the new facility is set from 9 a.m. to noon on April 22.

“I think the primary decision in this day and age is access and bringing convenient care closer to the communities where people live is a critical piece,” said OSF Saint Francis Medical Center President Mike Cruz. “The OSF footprint by design is not to bring everything to Peoria — it actually never has been.

“We’re in Rockford, we’re in the I-80 corridor, close to the Quad Cities, in Alton. Being across the river 25 minutes away and bringing services that can stay in the (Pekin) community makes a lot more sense to us anyway. That kind of care, the non-acute care hospital intensive care services can live and thrive in this community.”

Emergency services will not be provided at the center, said Cruz. He said Pekin has UnityPoint Health-Pekin’s emergency room open 24-7 for those services.

“Duplicating those services does not make any sense for the community or from a healthcare standpoint,” said Cruz.

Cruz said OSF has been providing healthcare “for the Pekin community for a very long time. It just has not physically been present. So, what can we provide? ... A lot of people from Pekin have crossed the river and gone to two other hospitals. If (medical professionals) can stay in the community and deliver that care just as well outside of an acute care hospital, we think that makes good sense.”

The facility will offer primary care, pediatrics, obstetrics and those types of services. It has a lab and X-ray facility. Other services will follow based on demand. 

Cruz said the schedule is already full for the first three to four weeks.

Sister Judith Ann Duvall, OSF HealthCare board chairperson, said, “For 140 years now, our OSF mission has not changed ... And trust me — it won’t ever change.”

“Healthcare can never be thought of or operated or conducted like a business,” she said. “That’s almost offensive. ... It’s not a business. It’s a very sacred ministry. It’s about caring for human lives. It’s about caring for your loved one. It’s about caring about you and how you would want your precious loved ones cared for.”

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin