CHICAGO (CBS) — Amid a fight over efforts to close Westlake Hospital, its owners have offered to transfer control of the hospital to the Village of Melrose Park, but Mayor Ronald Serpico accused Pipeline Health of trying to deflect responsibility after reneging on a promise to keep it open.
Pipeline completed a purchase of Westlake Hospital in January, and in February filed an application with the Illinois Health Facilities & Services Board, seeking permission to close the hospital.
The hospital’s owners said, before they closed on the purchase, state lawmakers voted down $4 million in funding for Westlake, and Melrose Park’s village board voted to withdraw $500,000 for a redevelopment plan.
“Although Westlake’s public representatives have seemingly been content to disinvest in Westlake for years, now is their chance to put their money where their mouth is,” Pipeline CEO Jim Edwards said in a statement about the offer to hand over the hospital to Melrose Park.
Village officials said the company’s offer was no more than a “publicity stunt.”
“If Pipeline Health and [vice chair] Eric Whitaker are serious about transferring ownership of Westlake Hospital to Melrose Park, they should send an actual offer with terms for the Village to review, instead of offering the hospital via press release as a publicity stunt,” spokesman Andrew Mack stated in an email. “The Mayor of Melrose Park is calling on Pipeline Health and Eric Whitaker to produce their financial records so that the village can do its due diligence.”
Melrose Park Mayor Ronald Serpico accused the company of an effort to spread “misinformation and deception.”
“Pipeline’s offer to transfer operations of Westlake Hospital to the Village of Melrose Park is another attempt for them to deflect their responsibility to run the hospital that they purchased and promised to keep open for at least two years,” Serpico stated.
Last week, the hospital moved to begin suspending services – halting inpatient admissions and surgeries and working to discharge and transfer current patients – but a judge later ordered them to stop.
However, employees said just a day after that order, Westlake continued to reduce services, move out equipment, and lay off staff; prompting attorneys for Melrose Park to file a motion to hold Pipeline in contempt of court.
On Tuesday, a judge granted the village’s motion, and ordered Pipeline to restore nearly all services at Westlake and keep them in place until May 1, or face fines of $200,000 a day.
Pipeline has said its efforts to close Westlake are the result of losses of nearly $2 million a month, because of “declining inpatient stays,” citing an average hospital bed occupancy of 30 percent.
Serpico said the village has never claimed it would be able to run a hospital, and that Pipeline promised it “would be able to successfully run the hospital” when it purchased Westlake, despite the hospital’s financial problems.
“They were aware of all of the financial conditions associated with Westlake. They were also under an obligation to exercise due diligence in all financial matters prior to the purchase,” Serpico said.
Pipeline said, if the village declines its offer, the company expects the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board to approve its application to close Westlake at a hearing on April 30.