Judge Orders Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park to Stay Open

Los Angeles-based Pipeline Health announced plans to close Westlake Hospital on Feb. 16

A ruling from Judge Eve Reilly Tuesday forces Westlake Hospital to stay open and keep treating more than 70 patients that remain there—its owner however, says it has appealed to the Illinois' Health Facilities and Services Board for permission to close but that permission has not yet been granted.

"It’s a shame that they want to close it," said Frank Magnum, a patient at the facility. "We need hospitals and this one hospital is in my group with Blue Cross and Blue Shield."

The village is fighting to keep the 250 bed facility from closing, while its parent company says its losing $2 million a month by keeping it open.

"The people that are most affected by this are primarily minority people and that’s the sad thing about this," said Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico.

Los Angeles-based Pipeline Health bought Westlake and two other west suburban hospitals in January despite promises to keep it open and keep its programs running.

Nurses and doctors say it has already started firing staff and cutting programs, which is why the village decided to go to court Tuesday afternoon to ask a judge for a temporary restraining order to keep Pipeline from winding down operations before it gets approval from the state.

Judge Reilly has ordered the hospital to stay fully staffed and up and running through May 1, a day after Illinois' Health Facilities and Services Board is expected to make its ruling.

She said there is no question an immediate shutdown could cause irreparable harm to people's health.

Pipeline objected and filed an appeal in court Tuesday, saying it is not safe for patients at Westlake to continue operating with its current levels of staffing.

Pipeline Health originally announced plans to close Westlake Hospital on Feb. 16, saying it intended to discontinue service at the 230-bed facility if its application was approved by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, the company said in a statement.

The announcement came less than three weeks after Pipeline Health purchased the hospital, along with West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park and Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago, from Tenet Healthcare on Jan. 29.

Pipeline Health said in a statement that in-patient services pffered at Westlake, like obstetrics and gynecology, surgery and intensive care, would be consolidated with West Suburban Medical Center, which is roughly four miles away. The company also said Westlake employees would be invited to apply for positions at the other two facilities owned by Pipeline, and that a shuttle from Melrose Park to West Suburban was "in the works."

But the impending closure angered some community members, elected officials and organizations, claiming that Pipeline purchased the three facilities "with promises to 'save the hospital,'" Lilian Jimenez, associate director of PASO-West Suburban Action Project, a social justice organization, said in a statement.

PASO was one of several groups that held a news conference ahead of a hearing with state lawmakers Friday, demanding answers as to why Pipeline is shuttering the facility.

"We demand that Pipeline consult with the community before abruptly closing Westlake Hospital. We can’t afford to lose a hospital that primarily serves the Latinx and Black communities," Jimenez said in a statement. "Losing this community anchor will exacerbate the health disparities that already exist in the Western Suburbs between low-income and wealthy communities."

The Village of Melrose Park filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that Pipeline and its leaders committed fraud with their purchase of Westlake, officials said. Pipeline called the suit "defamatory and false," according to the Chicago Tribune.

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