Activists once again call for Mercy Hospital to remain open

Mercy, the city’s first hospital, announced last summer its plans to close in 2021. Mercy was set to merge with three other South Side hospitals, but that plan fell through due to a lack of state funding.

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Medical professionals and activists blocked traffic at Adams and LaSalle on Tuesday afternoon to protest the planned closure of Mercy Hospital & Medical Center in Bronzeville.

Medical professionals and activists blocked traffic at Adams and LaSalle on Tuesday afternoon to protest the planned closure of Mercy Hospital & Medical Center in Bronzeville.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

For at least the third time in as many months, activists and health care professionals and labor groups called on elected officials to stop the planned closure of Mercy Hospital & Medical Center in Bronzeville.

About 40 supporters gathered Tuesday afternoon at Adams and LaSalle in the Loop, where speaker after speaker decried the decision to close the hospital during a global health crisis that has disproportionately affected communities of color in Chicago.

“In the midst of this pandemic, as we move towards the winter, as people move into closer settings and have a higher chance of transmitting COVID, and our patients are supposed to spike, we’re closing down a bedrock hospital in a Black community full of individuals that are at a higher risk,” said Dr. Ezekiel Richardson of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“In these settings, closing a hospital as a pandemic rages, as violence erupts, is unconscionable,” he added.

Mercy, the city’s first hospital, announced last summer its plans to close in 2021. Mercy was set to merge with three other South Side hospitals, but that plan fell through due to a lack of state funding.

The hospital — which was the site of a deadly mass shooting in November 2018 — is located at 2525 S. Michigan Ave. and serves predominantly Black patients.

After several speakers addressed reporters, organizers and supporters stood in the intersection of Adams and LaSalle, temporarily blocking the scant vehicle traffic.

Asked why the rally and news conference were held downtown and not at the hospital, Jitu Brown, an organizer with the Black Leaders Building Together Coalition, said:

“We’ve done several actions out in front of the hospital. We’re here in the financial district because we know that, often, these are the people that elected officials care about. We want to be in a part of Chicago that’s privileged to say that they can’t ignore us. They can not ignore the needs of people in our communities.”

Mercy and three other struggling South Side hospitals announced a $1.1 billion plan earlier this year to merge into a single health care system with one new hospital and a network of community health centers.

But the plan came apart in June after the Illinois General Assembly wrapped up a session without appropriating $520 million the hospitals were seeking to move the merger forward.

In late July, Mercy Hospital announced it would close sometime between Feb. 1 and May 31, 2021. Hospital officials said they will focus on creating outpatient services that will include diagnostics and urgent care.

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