The bitter battle between Melrose Park and a California-based healthcare network continued Wednesday, as the Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill that would grant the governor power to reverse decisions on hospital closures.
Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico, along with local state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Ill., accused Pipeline Health – owners of Westlake Hospital, 1225 W. Lake St. — of defying a judge’s order issued Tuesday evening.
Serpico said his phone has been “burning” with phone calls and text messages from people claiming Westlake has been removing equipment and canceling appointments despite a temporary restraining order issued by a Cook County Circuit Court judge preventing Pipeline from scaling down its operations until a decision is made by the Illinois Health Facilities Services and Review Board.
“I guess the law doesn’t apply to Pipeline,” Serpico said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
The Illinois House passed H.B. 0123, co-sponsored by Welch, 69 to 35 Wednesday and will now move to the state Senate for a vote.
The bill would allow the governor power to reverse decisions on hospital closures made by the Health Facilities Services and Review Board. It also would suspend any application to close a hospital until pending lawsuits over the closing are resolved.
“The allegations being made by the Mayor and Rep. Welch are patently false and absurd,” Natalie Bauer Luce, a spokesperson for Pipeline, said in a statement. “The chaos they seek to create is wildly irresponsible and putting patient safety in jeopardy. We are following the judge’s order and reviewing our legal options.”
Lilian Jimenez, a Melrose Park community organizer, along with others made a trip to Springfield Wednesday to hand-deliver 2,500 postcards and hundreds of letters to the Health Facilities Services and Review Board asking they deny Pipeline’s application to close Westlake.
“What we want is Westlake to stay open as a community hospital,” Jimenez said.
Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.