State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon
State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) works for a hospital, and used to lobby for one.
So when considering a bill in Springfeld last week that would have allowed Illinois surgeons to set up their own independent facilities, effectively competing with hospitals like his employer, Demmer was emphatically opposed.
That's just like the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, which prefers that doctors be required to get permission from one of its members before performing a surgery somewhere else. The group officially opposes legislation sponsored by State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) to eliminate that requirement, House Bill 4831.
Thoracic surgeon Raymond Dieter, of Glen Ellyn, who has founded such facilities-- called Ambulatory Surgical Treatment Centers (ASTCs)-- as well as hospitals over his 60 year career, said at an April 10 House Human Services Committee hearing that such regulations added needless costs and time to health care services.
“Many doctors, dentists, podiatrists, dermatologists and others don’t require a hospital environment,” Dieter told committee members. “This provision requires them to spend time there even though they don’t operate there.”
Dieter said he tracked 168,000 procedures performed at ASTCs. Only 1100 required that the patient go to a hospital due to a complication from surgery. None resulted in a death.
Ives said that Demmer should have recused himself from the vote.
The 31 year-old legislator is also the Director of Marketing & Strategic Planning at Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital in Dixon.
“It is remarkable that someone who works for a hospital would not recuse himself from a vote on legislation that would impact his employer,” Ives said. “Protection of big hospitals, at the behest of their well paid lobbyists that testified in committee, is not a good deal for the constituents he should be serving in Springfield.”
Demmer’s “no” along with the “no” votes of five others left the bill stranded in committee.
Demmer and the hospital association block surgeons like Dr. Dieter from performing surgeries outside of their facilities without their permission. But there is one medical procedure they will allow: abortions.
The surgical privilege provision under state law does not hold for abortion clinics, provided they do not perform abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy, use epidurals (pain medication injected into the spine), or perform other surgical procedures.
The exemption for abortion clinics was part of an over two decade-old settlement of a lawsuit brought against the state by abortion providers.
Demmer, who attended Newman Central Catholic High School and the Catholic University of Dayton, did not return a call to his office seeking comment on his vote, or whether he would support legislation requiring doctors performing abortion at clinics classified as ASTCs to maintain operating privileges at nearby hospitals.