New era for healthcare in Rockford as Javon Bea Hospital opens

By Lynne Conner For Chronicle Media

he sun rises over the Emergency Department entrance at the new Javon Bea Hospital and Physician Clinic —Riverside in Rockford. (Photo by Lynne Conner / for Chronicle Media)

The new year ushered in a new era of healthcare for the Rockford area with the debut of a

$505 million 563,000 square foot state-of-the-art medical facility. 

The opening of Mercyhealth’s Javon Bea Hospital and Physician Clinic-Riverside on Jan. 5 concludes the largest construction project in Rockford’s history and took two years and 10 months to complete.   

A complicated move from the Javon Bea Hospital and Physician Clinic-Rockton to the new Riverside facility began at 5 a.m. that day and took 10 hours to complete.  

The Riverside Boulevard. campus is now be the permanent home for women’s and children’s hospital services including labor/delivery; pediatrics, PICU, NICU and the small baby unit. 

“Patient safety has been our number one priority during the move from our Rockton Avenue campus to our Riverside campus,” said Javon Bea, president and CEO of Mercyhealth.  “We have multiple checks before a patient leaves our hospital on Rockton Avenue and multiple checks when they arrive at our Riverside campus.  The ambulances are all tracked en-route and everything ran like clockwork.  I am very proud of our staff and volunteers and thankful to them in making this transition a smooth one.” 

The MercyHealth board last year voted to name the facility after Bea, a longtime healthcare executive and pioneer in the region. 

Bea added that the 194 bed Riverside Boulevard campus will function as a level one trauma center and the 94-bed Rockton Avenue facility will be a level two trauma center.   

“We have Rockford very well covered with hospital care and physician services on both the east and west sides of town.  I think having the Riverside campus open off of I-90 now means easier access to healthcare for Rockford and the surrounding area,” he said.  “The other thing that I am excited about with the opening of the Riverside Boulevard campus is relieving some of the patient load from our Rockton Avenue location.  This will allow us to do remodeling and improvements at Mercyhealth Rockton,” Bea said.   

The hospital’s namesake — CEO Javon Bea — checks in on little Emerson Johnson, the second official patient at the new Rockford hospital. (Photo by Lynne Conner / for Chronicle Media)

The new Javon Bea Hospital and Physician Clinic-Riverside started accepting transfer patients from Rockton as early as 5:00 a.m. and opened to trauma at 7:00a.m. 

The first two patients registered at the hospital’s Riverside Blvd. campus were hardly excited about or aware of the move.   

Two-month old twin brothers, Landen and Emerson Johnson arrived by ambulance, from the Rockton Avenue campus at about 5:20 a.m. in birth order, with Landen first and Emerson following.    

The boys received a special greeting at Javon Bea Hospital and Physician Clinic-Riverside. Their grandmother, Brenda Gabel, a physician liaison, was part of the team that got the brothers checked in and settled in the NICU.  

“I got tears in my eyes as Landen arrived as the very first patient at the Riverside campus with Emerson next,” she said.   

Landen and Emerson were born on Oct. 31, 2018 at the Javon Bea Hospital and Physician Clinic—Rockton weighing two pounds 14 ounces and two pounds 13 1/2 ounces, respectively.  The brothers have been in the NICU since birth and will hopefully be discharged within the next two or three weeks.  

The NICU at Javon Bea Hospital and Physician Clinic-Riverside has individual rooms for its smallest patients and their families which is different than the “open pod” NICU at the Rockton Ave. campus.  All 38 of the NICU babies from the Rockton Avenue facility transferred smoothly to the new hospital on Riverside Boulevard.

Medical personnel unload the first patients at Javon Bea Hospital and Physician Clinic-Riverside on Saturday, Jan. 5. (Photo by Lynne Conner / for Chronicle Media)

“I didn’t have any worries about the boys’ safety during the transfer from the Rockton Avenue campus to the Riverside Boulevard hospital; but I had some “Mommy anxiety” with their first car ride in the ambulance.  Overall, I knew they were in good hands,” said Megan Johnson, mother of the twins.    

Both Megan and her husband Branden look forward to cuddle time with their babies in the privacy of the twins’ NICU suite.  

“Providing Landen and Emerson with more kangaroo care in their bright, spacious room really helps us bond with our babies,” Megan said. “It’s a special time for our family and having this nice, quiet area to ourselves is just wonderful.”