Pritzker urged to reopen Westlake Hospital for COVID-19 response

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch applauded the reopening of MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island and Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin as COVID-19 response centers, but said the state shouldn’t stop there.

SHARE Pritzker urged to reopen Westlake Hospital for COVID-19 response
Westlake Hospital, 1225 W Lake St in Melrose Park

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch and a Chicagoland not-for-profit organization called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to reopen Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park on Tuesday.

Many Ramos/Sun-Times file

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch and a Chicagoland nonprofit on Tuesday called for Gov. J.B. Pritzker to reopen Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park to help with the coronavirus crisis.

Welch, along with the Coalition for Spiritual and Public Leadership, hosted an online press conference pleading with the governor about the importance of using the now-shuttered facility for housing and treating confirmed COVID-19 patients.

Welch said he applauded the reopening of MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island and Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin as COVID-19 response centers, but said it’s a misstep if the state stops there.

“We are far from [COVID-19] peaking and when this thing peaks we need to be prepared,” the Hillside Democrat said. “We need to have all beds available... Reopening Westlake Hospital is a vital public health priority.”

Many hospitals already operating at nearly full capacity have seen shortages in supplies and personal protective equipment, raising questions about how the state would not only stock the facility, but also how it will staff it.

Welch said that shouldn’t be a problem and hopes to staff it with retired medical professionals and former employees. He also trusts the governor will be able to find all the necessary medical equipment needed to reopen the facility.

Westlake sits in Welch’s district and he was formerly a hospital trustee.

The owners of Westlake Hospital announced its closure only a month after acquiring it in a package deal with two other hospitals from Tenet Healthcare. The owners said the hospital was losing $3 million a month and also blamed $4 million in Medicaid funding lost through the Illinois Hospital Assessment Program in 2018.

The hospital was in a months-long legal battle with the village of Melrose Park before it filed for bankruptcy forcing the closure last summer.

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