CHICAGO (CBS)– Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park is staying open for the next two weeks, at least.
Tuesday in court, a judge found the owner of the hospital, Pipeline Health System, to be in contempt and ordered them to stop their efforts at closing Westlake.
In addition, Pipeline has to restore nearly all services to patients by Thursday at 9 a.m. keep them in place until, at least, the next court hearing on May 1.
If they don’t, they’ll be fined $200,000 dollars a day.
Some departments, such as bariatric services, which already moved equipment out of Westlake Hospital, do not have to return.
Workers say for weeks the hospital’s new owner has been laying off employees and moving equipment and patients out of Westlake in an attempt to close the hospital without the required permission from the state.
That prompted the Village of Melrose Park to take Pipeline Health to court to stop them.
“These people have misled us,” said Dr. Glen Kushner, president of the medical staff at Westlake Hospital. “They have lied to us, and we are angry.”
Attorneys for Pipeline Health say the company wants to close Westlake Hospital because it’s losing money and costs $2 million a month to run.
But last Tuesday a Cook County judge ordered Pipeline to keep the hospital open without any changes to staffing or services until an April 30th hearing before the state review board.
Despite that ruling, Westlake employees say management defied the judge’s order the very next day, prompting attorneys for Melrose Park to file a motion to hold Pipeline in contempt of court.
Tuesday the judge ruled in favor of the village and sent a clear message to Pipeline.
“If Westlake does not stay open, Pipeline will be fined $200,000 per day, which is an amazing victory for everybody here,” said Ari Scharg, attorney for the Village of Melrose Park.
“This is so important because under the review board rules if there’s pending litigation, and if there’s an injunction in place they will defer action on any application for discontinuance,” said State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (7th).
Several doctors and nurses who work at Westlake attended Tuesday’s hearing and said the judge’s ruling gives them some much needed peace of mind.
“There are currently patients in house at Westlake today, now,” said Dr. Martha Kushner. “We need to keep Westlake Hospital open for continuity of care and for the community.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Pipeline Health said in part, “While we respectfully disagree with the judge’s ruling today, we will take every step necessary to protect patients and their safety.”