Mercy Hospital, city’s first hospital, set to close in 2021

The hospital has been dealing with financial difficulties for decades.

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Mercy Hospital

Mercy Hospital & Medical Center on the Near South Side announced plans Wednesday to close the facility in 2021. | Sun-Times file photo.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, the city’s first chartered hospital, announced Wednesday it plans to close next year, just weeks after a plan to merge with three other money-losing hospitals collapsed due to a lack of state funding.

“The decision to discontinue services at Mercy Hospital was not an easy one. But patients on the South Side have unmet needs within the current system,” Carol Schneider, the hospital’s president, said in a statement. “The transformation from an inpatient model to one with greater access to outpatient services will better address the disparate outcomes in health from which our community suffers today.”

Administrators say they are working on plans for a South Side outpatient facility that would be able to care for up to 50,000 patients — offering everything from diagnostics to urgent care.

The hospital, at 2525 S. Michigan Ave., has faced financial problems for years, due to a declining population in the surrounding neighborhoods, decreasing hospital reimbursements and a huge increase in capital needs, hospital officials say.

Earlier this year, Mercy and three other struggling South Side hospitals announced plans to merge into a single health care system with one new, state-of-the-art hospital and a network of community health centers under a $1.1 billion plan. The hospitals were seeking $520 million in state funding spread over five years to offset additional losses as they set up the new health care system.

At the time, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the announcement “an innovative proposal to ensure Chicago South Side residents have access to quality and accessible health care services.”

“We celebrate the hospitals’ commitment to hearing directly from neighborhood leaders and area residents about local needs,” the mayor said at the time.

But in June, the hospitals — Mercy, Advocate Trinity Hospital, South Shore Hospital and St. Bernard Hospital — called off the merger, after the Illinois General Assembly wrapped up a shortened session without committing to the money.

The mayor’s office, in a statement Wednesday, said it was “saddened to see such a staple institution in our South Side community plan to close its doors.”

“Our city’s safety net hospitals are a vital source of medical care for low-income, un- and under-insured populations, and they provide necessary health care to individuals who may otherwise lack access to it. The City is committed to continuing Mercy Hospital’s legacy of promoting health equity for all residents throughout Chicago,” the statement said.

Mercy has not set an exact date for closure, but administrators say it will occur between Feb. 1 and May 31, 2021.

“Mercy is planning an orderly transition for the closure, including the relocation of services to other hospitals on the South Side to help ensure continuity of care for the health and safety of our patients,” the hospital said in a statement Wednesday.

The hospital has a storied history, dating back to 1852, when the Sisters of Mercy converted a rooming house near Rush Street and the Chicago River into Mercy Hospital, the city’s first chartered hospital, according to hospital records. During the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, many of the victims were treated at Mercy, which was then located at 26th Street and Calumet Avenue. All seven of Mayor Richard J. and Eleanor Daley’s children were born there, including Cook County Commissioner John Daley.

“We’re losing a great institution on the South Side, and a number of great doctors. It’s a sad loss for the South Side of the city,” John Daley said Wednesday.

Mercy made headlines in 2018 when a gunman confronted and shot his former fiancee in the hospital’s parking lot. The gunman, Juan Lopez, then re-entered the hospital, fatally shooting a pharmacy resident. Lopez also fatally wounded a Chicago police officer in a gun battle, before fatally shooting himself.

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