At Community First Medical Center on the Northwest Side the other day, an intercom repeated, "Code diversion, cath lab." Dr. David Fishman, a cardiologist, paused and said, "That's a bad sign."
The hospital's cardiac imaging equipment was down again, meaning ambulances with heart patients would have to divert to another hospital. At best, that would be nearly 5 miles away.
The outage didn't last long—just long enough to illuminate the challenges of Medicaid-dependent hospitals such as Community First, where less than 1 in 10 inpatients have private insurance and ambulance volume is the city's fifth-highest. It echoes the situation in Melrose Park, where Westlake Hospital is threatened with closure by a new, for-profit owner. Community First also is a rare for-profit hospital.
"You're going to see more and more Westlakes of the world," says Dr. Joseph D'Silva, an orthopedist and chief of surgery at Community First.