Backlash is growing over plans to shutter Westlake Hospital in suburban Melrose Park.
Los Angeles-based Pipeline Health 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.
Several elected officials, including state Reps. Kathleen Willis and Emanuel Chris Welch, plus Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico and Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey, were expected to address the hospital's closure and the lawsuit at a news conference Monday afternoon.