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Courts go back and forth over hospital closure

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* CBS 2

Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park appears to be saved again, at least temporarily, after a series of back-and fourth court rulings over the future of the hospital.

Last week, a Cook County judge blocked the hospital’s owners, Pipeline Health, from moving forward with plans to close the facility. When the company allegedly violated that order, another judge ordered them to restore nearly all hospital services or face daily fines of $200,000.

On Thursday, an Illinois Appellate Court panel tossed out the first judge’s temporary restraining order against Pipeline Health, stating Melrose Park had no standing to seek the TRO.

Hours later, the Illinois Supreme Court put the restraining order back in place, giving Melrose Park an opportunity to file an appeal by Friday afternoon.

* Tribune

The decisions Thursday followed months of an escalating drama over the future of the 230-bed hospital, particularly in the last couple weeks as the sides have battled one another in court over whether the hospital should be allowed to cut services earlier than expected.

Pipeline Health bought Westlake, West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park and Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago, for $70 million in January. Pipeline pledged at the time to save the hospitals. Just weeks after that purchase, Pipeline stunned community leaders, saying it would close Westlake by July because financial losses exceeded projections, threatening to drag down the other two hospitals.

Melrose Park sued Pipeline and its leaders, accusing them of lying about their intention to close Westlake, so they wouldn’t face opposition while seeking approval from a state review board to buy the hospitals.

Last week, Pipeline announced it would suspend many services at Westlake early, saying staffing had dropped to unsafe levels. Melrose Park sought and received a temporary restraining order to stop Pipeline from cutting services early, at least until after a state review board could consider Pipeline’s application to close the hospital. A Cook County Circuit Court judge found Pipeline in contempt of court for violating that order Tuesday and ordered Pipeline to restore most services at the hospital by Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, Pipeline offered to give the hospital to Melrose Park — a move that the village called a “stunt.”

* Sun-Times

Pipeline Health, the new owners of Westlake, had been held in contempt of court Tuesday for violating the restraining order. The company had until Thursday morning to restore service or run the risk of being fined $200,000 a day.

“We believe when the entire Illinois Supreme Court reviews the case, it will agree with today’s earlier decision: The Village of Melrose Park has no standing,” Pipeline CEO Jim Edwards said in a statement Thursday evening. […]

“Before Pipeline purchased the hospital, it promised — under penalty of perjury — to keep Westlake open and to continue providing charity care to the community,” Ari Scharg, the village’s attorney, said.

Last month, a lawsuit was filed by the village against Pipeline, accusing the California-based company of fraud. That case is still pending.

* ABC 7

The Illinois State Health Facilities and Services Review Board is expected to make a decision about whether the hospital will stay open for good by April 30.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - DuPage Saint - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 10:13 am:

    The owners deserve some kind of sanctions for not keeping their promises given under oath. But I think I would be wary of going there. What about staff? How many left and what horrid working conditions. And how about suppliers are they being paid or even offering supplies?

  2. - wordslinger - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 10:23 am:

    That’s a real hot one in this neck of the woods. Local officials definitely think they were lied to and burned by Pipeline.

    –On Wednesday, Pipeline offered to give the hospital to Melrose Park — a move that the village called a “stunt.”–

    Might not be, um, “healthy,” to taunt Melrose Park officials like that. Use your head.

  3. - my thoughts - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 10:52 am:

    With multiple hospitals located within a 5 mile radius of Westlake, it looks like an over abundance of facilities.

  4. - PJ - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 10:52 am:

    We can’t have government meddling in health care, folks. As you can see here, the private sector has got us covered. The benevolent hand of the market is all we need.

  5. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 11:29 am:

    How do we handle medical facilities whose revenues do not cover their operating costs? Whether it is hospitals or nursing homes, the problems seem similar.

    Government run facilities, like the VA, have had problems. Underfunding payments and requiring charity services is a way to squeeze the private sector.

    Medicare for all moves the problem to the national level. But the squeeze will continue m

  6. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 11:56 am:

    Medicare for all…is a fairly good solution for those people who will need health care in their future…that includes every one who is not currently dead.

  7. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 12:28 pm:

    Anyone driven through Melrose Park recently? I have and the city has no standing to tell a private company how to run their business. Melrose Park isn’t the poorest western suburb but it isn’t a paradise either. You have Gottlieb Memorial Hospital just 10 minutes further east,and Loyola, West Suburban and Elmhurst all within driving distance. These small local hospitals are going out of business for a variety of reasons, example the old Northlake Hospital.

  8. - Red Skeptic - Friday, Apr 19, 19 @ 12:36 pm:

    This seems straightforward. They knew what the financial situation was before they bought it. They promised (under penalty of perjury) to keep it open. People (regulators) relied on that promise in granting approvals. Then they broke that promise.

    Lying under oath = perjury. Making a promise that others rely on that you know is false = fraud. Whether it’s civil or criminal I don’t know. But it’s wrong and someone should be investigating an holding the executives accountable for their lies.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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