Saturday, February 16, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
The new owners of Westlake Hospital, 1225 W. Lake St. in Melrose Park, plan to close the venerable institution, according to a statement released by Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico on Feb. 15.
“Less than one month after Pipeline promised to keep Westlake open and vocalized the hospital’s tremendous importance as one of the only safety net hospitals in our region, they have announced that they are closing the doors,” Serpico said. “Pipeline Health’s shameful lie will rob our communities of a vital asset.”
Serpico’s statement did not specify when the hospital could close. A spokesperson for Serpico could not be reached for comment on Saturday morning.
The announcement comes just two weeks after Pipeline Health acquired Westlake, a former Tenet Healthcare hospital.
Crain’s Chicago Business reported that “Dr. Eric Whitaker, vice chair and principal of Los Angeles-based Pipeline, called Mayor Ron Serpico and two state representatives late Friday to share the news, Melrose Park spokesman Andrew Mack said. Whitaker is best known as the founder of TWG Partners and friend of former President Barack Obama.”
On Feb. 5, when he was asked what attracted him to Pipeline, Whitaker told Crain’s that they “really believed in putting community first. They believe in quality care. They believe in being the lowest cost provider. And so all of these things I think are important in hospitals because I think there are one-off community hospitals in danger all over this country.”
State Representatives Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Kathleen Willis, who represent constituents who live in Westlake’s service area, both expressed surprise and disappointment with Pipeline’s decision.
“When I found out about TWG and Pipeline’s true intention to close Westlake Hospital, I was deeply disappointed and hurt,” Welch, a former Westlake trustee, said in a statement.
“The entire time we have been led to believe that they were going to invest in Westlake, not close it. We have been intentionally misled.”
Willis said that Pipeline was “disingenuous at best” and that residents of Melrose Park and surrounding communities “relied on Pipeline’s false statements that it would work” to save hospitals like Westlake.
“This is a tough loss for the underprivileged people of the community and those future mothers expecting to deliver babies at Westlake Hospital,” Willis said.
Westlake Hospital, which employs around 800 people and has 230 beds, according to Serpico, is considered a “safety net” hospital, because it serves some of the state’s most vulnerable residents who would not otherwise be able to afford healthcare.
In his statement, Serpico said that Westlake is the only hospital in Melrose Park with “a functioning Obstetrics [OB-GYN] Department capable of providing pregnancy, childbirth and post-partum services.”
Westlake also provides Level 1 trauma services, as well as “behavioral, substance abuse, and mental health services in Melrose Park and surrounding communities.”
Welch and Willis both vowed that they would fight Westlake’s impending closure.
“I intend to fight this closure in any way that I can,” Willis said.
“I will oppose this measure for the sake of our community,” said Welch. “I will ask my fellow legislators to stand with me in opposition as well.” VFP
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