CHICAGO (CBS) — The battle to save south suburban Metro South Hospital is getting ugly.
One doctor said his group wants to buy the hospital, but some hospital supporters say they would rather the hospital close than sell it to them.
The Blue Island hospital could be two and a half weeks from closing for good and hundreds of jobs would be gone.
“There were 50,000 emergency room visits here. How does that get absorbed in other hospitals?” said State Rep. Robert Rita.
Rita is one of many fighting to keep Metro South open, hoping its owner, the for-profit Quorum Healthcare, sells it.
Quorum filed its petition to close with the state on June 11, Rita says, with a targeted closing date of Nov. 1. Then, he says Quorum moved it up to Sept. 30.
“If Quorum cares so much about this community, they’d give the time,” Rita said.
Dr. Seth Guterman said he formed M.S.M.C. Management to buy Metro South. He said M.S.M.C. and Quorum hammered out most of a purchase agreement for about $20 million. Then Guterman said Quorum demanded a $1 million, non-refundable deposit.
“This is all about money,” he said. “This is all about corporate healthcare greed. Our argument is there could be a win-win here. They can get a lot of money for that hospital. At the same time, we can keep it open.”
But there’s a twist.
A third group of hospital supporters, led by former patient Bishop Larry Trotter, wants Guterman’s group out of the picture.
“I would rather see it close and the right group come in than to put this hospital and the people in the hands of somebody that’s faulty,” said Trotter.
Trotter said one red flag is a lawsuit filed by insurance giant AETNA against Guterman and his other company, the People’s Choice Hospital. It accuses them of orchestrating a $21 million lab billing scheme.
“I’m happy to talk to you about any litigation that has been completed,” Guterman said. “But as far as any active litigation, it’s all allegations at this point.”
A Quorum spokesperson now confirms a concern about Guterman’s past dealings is one of many reasons talks broke down, insisting there is no other buyer.
Rep. Rita said otherwise.
“I know that there are other entities that are interested in looking, but they need time,” he said.
Blue Island’s mayor said there are actually two other interested buyers, including Mount Sinai Hospital, but CBS 2 could not confirm that.
Time may be up Tuesday if the state’s health facilities review board gives its OK for Metro South to close.