A judge on Tuesday ruled that management of Westlake Hospital must restore services, saying they violated a temporary restraining order when they began winding down operations.
The ruling held hospital management in contempt of court and ordered the hospital open up its departments and admit patients by 9 a.m. Thursday or face a $20,000 daily fine.
"They thought they could abuse us and we would just roll over," Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico said in a statement. "It's clear again today that the people of Melrose Park wont be pushed around."
Hospital staff told NBC 5 Wednesday that patients were being turned away, nurses laid off and medical equipment hauled off site, despite a court order mandating services remain in place through the end of the month.
An evidentiary hearing was scheduled for Tuesday morning, with a judge set to decide if management can continue winding down operations. If not, the judge could hold management in contempt of court and order such services be restored.
"Patients are upset," nurse Mari Collins said. "This is their community hospital that they come to--they don’t want to go to other hospitals."
Staff accused administrators of violating the temporary restraining order, which mandated the hospital remain open until May 1 ahead of a state board hearing review about whether California-based Pipeline Health could shut down the nearly 100-year-old community hospital.
"There are signed documents that say they’re gonna invest in it and give us two years of coverage," Dr. Raymond McDonald said. "This is a safety net hospital that has to be protected."
Pipeline Health bought the hospital in January and weeks later announced it would close because the hospital has been losing $2 million a month.
An NBC 5 news crew watched as workers shuffled medical gear around and hauled off hospital equipment Wednesday afternoon.
"I saw patients waiting in the emergency room for over 16 hours almost being tortured because they cannot be admitted while we have the beds upstairs and we have the staff," Dr. Nabil Saleh said.
Meanwhile, in Springfield, Melrose Park Mayor Ronald Serpico and state Rep. Chris Welch lobbied for legislation that could allow the governor to reverse the state board’s decision to shut down.
"I guess the law doesn’t apply to Pipeline," Serpico said. "It just doesn’t. They do what they want when they want."
A spokesperson for Pipeline Health denied they were doing anything wrong saying: "The allegations are false. We are following the judge’s order."
But Welch said his work is not done.
"The liars and the cheaters are still at work," he said. "They are ignoring the court’s order."
Meanwhile, House Bill 123, as it’s known, did pass in Springfield last week.