CHICAGO (CBS) — Westlake Hospital in west suburban Melrose Park appears poised to close for good, after months of legal battles over the medical center’s future, after a Cook County judge put off ruling on a request to hold ownership in contempt of court.
The hospital filed for bankruptcy earlier this week, and owners at Pipeline Health sent a letter to staff saying it expects to transfer all of its patients to other facilities by 3 p.m. Friday. It was unclear Friday afternoon if those few remaining patients had been moved.
The village of Melrose Park and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office went to court Friday, hoping to stop the closure, asking a judge to hold Pipeline in contempt of court.
Doctors and nurses who attended a court hearing on the fight over the hospital on Friday said Pipeline started transferring patients out on Wednesday, and only about 15 patients were left at Westlake as of Friday morning.
“This is a situation where I think the owners of the hospital are trying to close no matter what by the end of the weekend. So that if they have a hospital with no patients in it, and if the doors are locked, then it makes it a lot easier to go and argue in front of a bankruptcy [judge], and make it more of a financial problem; rather than a problem related to patient care and a problem to the access of care to the community” Dr. Mohammad Vaseemuddin said.
Although the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted in April to allow the hospital to close, a judge had ruled in May that Westlake must stay open, pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by Melrose Park, which has claimed Pipeline reneged on a promise to keep the hospital open for two years after buying the facility in January.
The company has said keeping Westlake open has led to $3 million in losses every month.
In February, Pipeline filed an application to close the hospital, and Melrose Park later sued to force the hospital to stay open.
Judge Franklin Valderrama on Friday delayed ruling on the request to hold Pipeline in contempt of court until Wednesday, after a separate hearing in bankruptcy court.
The village and Cook County State’s Attorney wanted the judge to impose monetary sanctions against Pipeline for violating a court order to keep Westlake open.
Attorneys for Pipeline have argued the case should now be decided in bankruptcy court, and that Cook County courts should have no say in whether the hospital will stay open.
Meantime, Melrose Park has filed a motion asking a bankruptcy judge to dismiss the bankruptcy petition, and Foxx’s office has filed a motion in support of the village, saying Pipeline should have given advance notice of the closing.