11:30 A.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE:
Melrose Park spokesman Andrew Mack called Pipeline's offer a "stunt," adding: "Who makes an offer to sell a hospital via a press release? If they're serious, they should send us terms."
The hospital is a huge employer in the village and there are other businesses, such as restaurants, around the facility that depend on traffic from workers and patients, Mack said.
While Melrose Park has "never claimed to be able to run a hospital … the village would be more than willing to try and help find another buyer if that's" what needs to happen at this point, Mack said.
Melrose Park Mayor Ronald Serpico said in a statement: "Pipeline's offer to transfer operations of Westlake Hospital to the Village of Melrose Park is another attempt for them to deflect their responsibility to run the hospital that they purchased and promised to keep open for at least two years."
10:30 A.M. WEDNESDAY UPDATE:
Pipeline Health today proposed transferring Westlake Hospital to the village of Melrose Park, according to a statement issued this morning.
The offer would put the village in the place of Pipeline Health as the owner, and Melrose Park would assume all revenues and liabilities from operating the hospital.
Pipeline Health would receive no economic benefit from any payment in this transfer.
More to come ...
A Cook County Circuit Court judge found Pipeline Health in contempt of court and required it to restore most services offered at Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill.
The judge, Moshe Jocobius, ordered Pipeline to restore services like behavioral health and obstetrics by Thursday morning or face daily fines of $200,000. He allowed Pipeline to stop offering weight-loss services (bariatrics) and accepting incoming ambulance traffic, which the hospital already had been allowed to do through a previous order. A written order to be made available will provide more detail about the specific sevices the 230-bed hospital will have to continue providing.
While there was no finding of willfulness or bad faith, Jacobius said Pipeline failed to comply with Judge Eve Reilly's April 9 temporary restraining order. The order prohibited the hospital owner from discontinuing any medical services offered at Westlake, creating conditions that change the status quo and failing to maintain facilities, staffing or supply levels.
If the temporary restraining order began at 12:01 a.m. on April 9, "there's no question that we violated" it, an attorney for Pipeline said at the start of today's nearly eight-hour evidentiary hearing.
"At 4:30 p.m. on April 9, Westlake was on temporary suspension, meaning, in the interest of patient safety, it was not admitting new patients or performing surgeries and was discharging or transferring inpatients when clinically appropriate," Pipeline said April 11 in a written response to Melrose Park's April 10 motion to hold the hospital owner in contempt.
Patient safety is the primary concern, Jacobius said during the hearing. He noted that, if Westlake can't safely care for patients, he can't "let 500 people come in tomorrow and, whatever happens to them happens to them." However, Jacobius found if the hospital was safe enough to care for patients on April 8, it should have been safe enough on April 9.
"While we respectfully disagree with the judge's ruling today, we will take every step necessary to protect patients and their safety," Pipeline spokeswoman Natalie Bauer Luce said in a statement.
Los Angeles-based Pipeline CEO Jim Edwards testified during the hearing today he disagrees "wholeheartedly" with hospital employees who say "this is a safe environment."
It's hard to recruit staff to a hospital that has announced it's closing, Edwards said, referencing the "temporary suspension" of services that took effect April 9, primarily due to declining staff rates posing patient safety risks. While Pipeline called the suspension temporary, it did not disclose plans to reopen.
The company purchased Westlake, West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park and Weiss Memorial Hospital in Uptown from Tenet Healthcare for $70 million on Jan. 29. Elected officials, including Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch of Westchester, a member of the hospital's board of trustees, have said they feel misled by Pipeline, who allegedly told them it would keep Westlake open for at least two years.
During the hearing, Edwards said Pipeline decided in late December that Westlake was "too far gone" and, therefore, needed to close. The impending closure was first made public Feb. 15. The Illinois Health Facilities & Services Review Board is scheduled to rule on Pipeline's application to close the hospital at its April 30 meeting.
Chicagoan Dr. Eric Whitaker, Pipeline's vice chair and principal, was not present at the hearing. Whitaker is best known as the founder of Chicago-based healthcare investment firm TWG Partners, which was previously involved in the hospital purchase with Pipeline, and as a friend of former President Barack Obama.
"Westlake Hospital owner must restore services: judge" originally appeared in Crain's Chicago Business.