MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island has told its employees and medical staff it plans to close by Sept. 30.
The hospital has asked permission of state regulators to close but says in the letter it must plan to wind down operations while awaiting a ruling from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.
In June, MetroSouth said it would be forced to close the 314-bed hospital by the end of 2019 if a buyer wasn’t found. It has lost 10% of its staff since seeking permission to close.
In a letter to staff dated Monday, MetroSouth CEO John Walsh wrote that “we have explored every option that would preserve at least a portion of the hospital’s current services.”
”There remains no parties committed to assume and maintain the operations of the hospital,” the letter stated. “I understand there are rumors circulating about potential operators, but to date we have found no organization with the resources willing to sign a binding agreement.”
Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas disputes MetroSouth’s claims that a buyer hasn’t emerged. Vargas said he knows a potential private buyer and “two other institutions” with interest in purchasing the hospital that has served the south suburbs for over 100 years.
He couldn’t disclose the potential buyers’ names because of confidentiality agreements.
“Right now we are trying to confirm they have the money to buy the hospital and we’ve requested they send us all the financial documents,” Vargas said. “We want to find out if the money exists so that we can tell the residents we are going to save the hospital.”
Vargas said the closing of MetroSouth will have a “domino effect” on other businesses in Blue Island. MetroSouth, with 800 employees, it the south suburb’s largest employer.
State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, called the closing announcement “reckless and irresponsible.”
“MetroSouth’s announcement that they will shut down hospital operations with barely a month’s notice is disappointing and unacceptable,” Rita said Tuesday. “For months, we have asked for additional time and continued negotiations to reach a solution that protects patient safety while creating stability for our medical professionals and the doctors and nurses who serve our community every day.”
“This eleventh-hour decision to move up the hospital’s closing date and put South Suburban patients at risk is reckless and irresponsible. Their application for closure to the Health Facilities and Services Review Board is not even up for review until Sept. 17 and they’re already planning to close down two weeks later.”
MetroSouth has maintained it is bleeding money.
The facility lost an average of $2 million a year from 2014 through 2017, Walsh said at a public meeting in July. Then, last year, MetroSouth suffered an $8.4 million loss and is on track to lose more than $10 million this year.
Manny Ramos is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.