CHICAGO (CBS) — The owners of Westlake Hospital said they are suspending services, due to a declining number of patients and staff, but officials in Melrose Park plan to ask a judge to force the hospital to stay open.
Pipeline Health System said the move to temporarily suspend inpatient admissions and surgeries at Westlake Hospital is the result of losses of nearly $2 million a month, because of “declining inpatient stays,” citing an average hospital bed occupancy of 30 percent. The company said, in February, it filed an application with the Illinois Health Facilities & Services Board, seeking permission to close the hospital.
“Our utmost priority is safety and quality of patient care,” said Jim Edwards, CEO of Pipeline Health. “With declining staffing rates and more attrition expected, a temporary suspension of services is necessary to assure safe and sufficient operations. This action is being taken after considering all alternatives and with the best interest of our patients in mind.”
Employees said they were caught off guard after receiving an announcement Tuesday morning that the hospital could close in 60 days.
Westlake environmental services lead Enrico Epps said he worked the second shift at the hospital on Monday, and didn’t find out about the possible closure until Tuesday morning. About 600 employees would be out of work if the hospital closes.
“All of a sudden, they’re without a job? That’s not right,” he said.
Epps said he noticed something strange at work Monday night.
“I had several discharges. People were getting discharged. I’m like, ‘Wow.’” he said.
The hospital’s owners said falling staffing rates have forced them to pull staff from West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, and rely on nurses from outside agencies to cover shifts at Westlake.
However, village officials in Melrose Park filed a request for a temporary restraining order on Monday against Pipeline, seeking to prevent the hospital from closing.
The judge issued a temporary restraining order in case between the village of Melrose Park and Pipeline Health on Tuesday.
“It’s one of Melrose Park’s main hospitals, where first responders drop off victims of gunshot violence,” said Andrew Mack, a spokesman for the Village of Melrose Park. “It serves primarily low income black and brown residents.”
Mack said additional minutes for stroke or gunshot victims could prove fatal. He said Pipeline Health told the village multiple times they’d keep the hospital open, but in February the company filed paperwork with the state to close Westlake Hospital.
Mack said the new owners have been slowly laying off owners since taking over Westlake in January, has been refusing to accept new patients, and has been selling off equipment in an effort to skirt laws requiring state approval before a hospital closes.
About 600 workers could be impacted, from nurses to security guards.
“I’m very sad about. it I’m sympathetic. I’ve been in healthcare for about 46 years,” said Dr. Glennell Conway, who works at Roseland Community Hospital.
Conway said she drove 52 miles to Westlake for a job fair, to offer Westlake employees nursing opportunities at Roseland, after she found out three weeks ago about Pipeline’s plan to close Westlake. However, that job fair was cancelled.
A hearing on the village’s request for a restraining order has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Daley Center courthouse.