Trinity Health’s outpatient center proposal rejected by state board

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board vote comes about six weeks after it rejected Trinity Health’s plan to close Mercy Hospital.

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Supporters of keeping Mercy Hospital open rally outside the facility in September 2020.

A plan by Trinity Health to open an outpatient clinic was rejected Tuesday by a state review board. Trinity Health is the parent of Mercy Hospital in Bronzeville.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Trinity Health’s proposal to open an urgent care and diagnostic center on the South Side was rejected Tuesday by a state review board, the company’s second loss in about six weeks.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted 3-2 Tuesday to deny approval for Trinity Health’s planned $13 million Mercy Care Center at 3753 S. Cottage Grove Ave. The same board unanimously rejected Trinity Health’s plan to close Mercy Hospital in Bronzeville after a hearing Dec. 15.

“We are disappointed with the initial decision by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board and are evaluating our options to open an outpatient center on Chicago’s South Side,” Trinity Health said in a statement issued after the hearing.

Board member Dr. Linda Murray called Trinity Health’s proposal a “peculiar stew of services,” offering little more service to the community than a walk-in drugstore clinic.

“I don’t understand how ... you all think that this actually materially improves care,” said Murray, who voted against the project. “If everybody switched to this model, we’d see more deaths and more chronic disease.”

Murray said the proposal doesn’t make sense as a “replacement for a full-service hospital.”

Board member Gary Kaatz voted in favor of the project, saying he’d seen similar models of health care work well and that his approval is a vote independent of the Mercy Hospital closure issue.

“It’s an opportunity for you guys to mend some fences,” Kaatz said.

Trinity Health can request a re-hearing before the state board.

The board took about three hours of public testimony, mostly from people who don’t want to see the clinic built if it means the closure of Mercy.

Ald. Sophia King (4th), in whose ward both the hospital and the proposed clinic sit, accused Trinity Health of trying to “decimate” health care in the community.

“Trinity was handed Mercy in great financial condition,” King said. “They took that bargain and great hospital and effectively ran it into the ground.”

During the public comment period, Christina Govas was more blunt: “Calling this push to cut services a transformation project that puts the community first is akin to trying to brand a noose as a poorly disguised bow. It fools no one. It helps no one. It is a death sentence.”

Trinity Health executives argued Tuesday that the outpatient facility is the best way for people in underserved communities to get high-quality preventive care in a timely way. They described it as an important mid-step between seeing a primary care doctor and a visit to a hospital emergency room.

“Change needs to happen on the South Side of Chicago in delivering health care,” said Daisy Rodriguez, the executive director of the Trinity Health’s planned clinic. “As a Latina woman myself, born and raised in underserved communities in Chicago, I want Black and Brown people in our community to get better care and closer to home.”

“This community desperately needs both early detection and diagnosis of illnesses and diseases, better care coordination to better treat chronic diseases, and more cost-effective and accessible urgent care and other outpatient services.”

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