Late Thursday, the state’s highest court directed the owners of Westlake Hospital to keep the hospital open – at least for now – reversing action a lower court had taken Thursday morning.
The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the temporary restraining order preventing the hospital’s owners from winding down services just hours after a three-judge panel of the Illinois Appellate Court had ruled unanimously that the village of Melrose Park had no grounds to request such action.
Both parties are due back in court to see if the restraining order will be vacated.
Pipeline Health, the new owners of Westlake, had been held in contempt of court Tuesday for violating the restraining order. The company had until Thursday morning to restore service or run the risk of being fined $200,000 a day.
“We believe when the entire Illinois Supreme Court reviews the case, it will agree with today’s earlier decision: The Village of Melrose Park has no standing,” Pipeline CEO Jim Edwards said in a statement Thursday evening.
Melrose Park officials hope they will prevail: “The people of Melrose Park will not allow Pipeline Health to trample on us,” Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico said in a statement. “Pipeline thinks that the law doesn’t apply to them but it does. We’ll do everything we can to hold them accountable.”
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Serpico said in a statement Thursday morning the appellate court’s ruling “does not erase the fact that Pipeline Health broke Illinois law by discontinuing services at Westlake Hospital. Melrose Park has worked tirelessly to hold Pipeline Health accountable to the law.”
Earlier this month, Cook Circuit Court Judge Eve Reilly ruled the sudden closure could have “irreparable harm” to the community and granted a temporary restraining order preventing Pipeline from shuttering the hospital until May 1 — the day after a hearing is scheduled before the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board to determine if Pipeline can close Westlake.
“Pipeline cannot be allowed to continue to break Illinois law without consequences, and Melrose Park is looking at all options to hold Pipeline accountable, including requesting the Attorney General or State’s Attorney to intervene to protect health care access to the residents of Melrose Park,” Serpico said in his statement.
“Before Pipeline purchased the hospital, it promised — under penalty of perjury — to keep Westlake open and to continue providing charity care to the community,” Ari Scharg, the village’s attorney, said.
Last month, a lawsuit was filed by the village against Pipeline, accusing the California-based company of fraud. That case is still pending.
Thursday’s appellate court decision “absolutely does not impact” that lawsuit, Serpico said.
Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.