The village of Melrose Park and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office are seeking to hold the owners of Westlake Hospital in contempt of court after learning the hospital was planning to close its doors as early as Friday afternoon — an apparent violation of a judge’s order in May.
The hospital began transferring patients on Wednesday and announced plans to close its doors by the end of the week in a memo circulated among staff, according to court documents filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court.
A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning to address the motion.
Village attorney Ari Scharg said Pipeline Health, which purchased Westlake Hospital last year, is trying to defy a Cook County judge’s order that the hospital remain open while a decision by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board to close the hospital is reviewed.
Since the judge’s ruling, Westlake Hospital has filed for bankruptcy, citing economic and industry hardship caused by health care policy implemented at the state level, the Sun-Times reported earlier this week.
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in a statement Thursday her office filed a motion to join in the village’s efforts to hold the owners in contempt “to protect the rights of the patients and staff of Westlake Hospital and to ensure a continuity of care in the event of a closure.”
“Despite best efforts and legal intervention, vulnerable residents are now facing an abrupt halt in medical services,” Foxx said. “Those most affected should have been given more respect than a letter days before the hospital is set to close. All county residents deserve access to healthcare and justice regardless of their zip code, economic status or race.”
Owners of the hospital, located at 1225 W. Lake St. in the west suburb, say it is losing nearly $3 million a month and that no buyer has emerged for the facility.
The village claims Westlake’s owners have plenty of money to fund the hospital.
In court documents filed Thursday in federal bankruptcy court, the village said the company’s bankruptcy claim was made “in bad faith.”
“This is just their latest attempt to circumvent Illinois law and the court,” Scharg said. “Pipeline is trying to use the bankruptcy filing as its latest way to close the hospital, which it always planned to do.”
On Wednesday, a trustee was appointed by the U.S. Trustee’s Office to oversee the bankruptcy case, which was filed in Delaware.
In a statement Thursday, a spokeswoman for Pipeline Health said “all decisions made will be coming at the directive of the trustee” and declined to comment further.
Also Thursday, the U.S. Trustee’s Office filed a motion to move the case from Delaware to the Northern District of Illinois, citing proximity to the stakeholders and stating that Westlake Hospital had no patients or employees in Delaware, had never done business in Delaware and that “few if any” of Pipeline’s records are kept in Delaware.
If the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy case did give Pipeline permission to close the hospital, the trustee did so without knowing about the circuit court’s previous injunction, Scharg said.
A representative of the U.S. Trustee’s Office could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Based on conversations with the trustee, Scharg said, “Pipeline did not notify the bankruptcy court about the injunction.”
Scharg said the village will ask the court to hold Pipeline and its parent company, SRC Hospital Investments, in contempt of court, which could lead to the court issuing “significant fines” against the company.
“I think the law and the policy is on our side,” Scharg said.