(CBS) — The controversial plan to close most of Saint James Hospital’s Chicago Heights facility, and consolidate them at the hospital’s newer Olympia Fields campus was the subject of hearings Tuesday by state regulators.

An army of Saint James employees arrived early, were first in line to speak and said the consolidation would save money and provide better care in a newer facility. But several fire chiefs and other first responders disagreed loudly.

Matteson Chief Chris Schwelbe said the emergency room in Olympia Fields, even if expanded as planned, would be maxed out quickly.

“They’re going to be at capacity when they cut their ribbon,” he said. “The ER is barely going to be barely handling all the patients we’re going to be bringing into the facility.”

Asked by WBBM if it could endanger lives, Schwelbe said seconds can make the difference between life and death, and said, “To a certain extent, yeah.”

Franciscan Health said it will expand its urgent care clinic in Chicago Heights, but Schwelbe said the law requires fire ambulances to transport patients to hospitals, not urgent care clinics.

Lifelong Chicago Heights resident Doris Williams said consolidation would be “the death of our community.”

Several Olympia Field trustees and a number of that suburb’s residents welcomed the plans. Olympia Fields Country Club clubhouse manager Adam Nickerson said, “St. James in Chicago Heights needs to close. It’s 100 years old and bricks are literally falling off the walls. No matter how much money you sink into the old building, it’s going to be an old building.”

The Health Facilities Board did not indicate when it would rule.