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Kim Foxx’s office becomes a plaintiff in lawsuit to keep Westlake Hospital open

Westlake Board Chairman and state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Ill., U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., and Melrose Park attorney Ari Scharg speak outside a courtroom April 22. | Manny Ramos/Sun-Times.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s motion to intervene as an additional plaintiff in the village of Melrose Park’s pending litigation against Pipeline Health was granted at a hearing Monday morning.

However, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Franklin Valderrama did not rule on the state’s attorney’s emergency motion seeking a separate temporary restraining order against Pipeline. An order that would prevent Westlake Hospital from closing prematurely.

Instead, Valderrama asked Pipeline to abide by the original TRO regardless of any ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court, and they agreed to the judge’s request — though it could be months until the high court even reviews the restraining order.

The no-ruling was still a small victory for Melrose Park because Pipeline will have to maintain services until May 1, the day after the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board is expected to consider a petition to close Westlake Hospital.

“As we continue to stand with the patients and the staff of Westlake, and the community it serves, we are pleased with the Court’s ruling today,” Foxx said in a statement. “The State’s Attorney’s Office will continue to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the law is followed in this matter.”

The village’s attorneys and elected officials are betting on the review board deferring Pipeline’s application to close until the pending Melrose Park lawsuit against the California-based health-care network is resolved.

If the state review board defers the application, the village will seek to extend the TRO for a longer period of time.

While the state’s attorney’s office and village lawyers argued their case, Westlake Board Chairman and state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., called on other political leaders to support Melrose Park.

“We’re calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker, we are calling on Attorney General Kwame Raoul to step up,” Welch said. “This community helped elect those two gentlemen, and they deserve to have the governor and the attorney general speak up on their behalf.”

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., are the latest to get behind the efforts to keep Westlake Hospital open. Durbin, Duckworth and Garcia sent a letter to Jim Edwards, CEO of Pipeline, Monday afternoon urging them to not shut down the facility until the state review board makes a decision.

“In acquiring Westlake Hospital, Pipeline took responsibility for the patients and employees in this community,” the letter read. “The impact of Pipeline’s abrupt attempts to shutter the facility will hit the vulnerable population that the hospital services.”

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.