Westlake Hospital closing approved unanimously by state review board

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Supporters of Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park were expected to make a last-ditch effort Friday to keep the hospital open | via Facebook

The owners of Westlake Hospital received approval from a state review board that allows them to move forward with plans to close the Melrose Park facility.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted 7-to-0 in favor of the closure Tuesday afternoon.

“We are grateful that the board followed its statutory duty so we can fulfill our mission to take care of patients and not buildings,” Dennis Culloton, Pipeline Health’s spokesman, said.

However, Melrose Park Mayor Ronald Serpico questioned the review board’s decision.

“It’s also puzzling that the board would so flagrantly disregard their own rules,” Serpico said in a statement. “As a result of their action we are calling today on Attorney General Kwame Raoul to investigate the [Health Facilities and Services Review Board]  decision to approve Pipeline Health’s fraudulent purchase and closing of Westlake Hospital.”

Those opposed to the hospital’s closure had hoped the board would defer Pipeline Health’s application to close until pending lawsuits by the village and the Cook County state’s attorney are resolved.

It was nearly granted with a 4-to-3 vote in favor of deferring earlier Tuesday.

But without a five-vote majority, the board couldn’t pass anything.

The board should have nine voting members, but one was absent Tuesday and one seat is unfilled.

Two recent appointees by Gov. J.B. Pritzker were among the three board members who voted against deferring the application.

“Today’s decision was disappointing, and the governor let us down,” Westlake Board Chairman and state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside said. “Low-income families in a black and brown community lost access to health care.”

Serpico was also disappointed with Pritzker and his new appointees because “neither of them stood up for health care access” in Melrose Park.

When Pipeline filed paperwork to close Westlake, its application stated the 230-bed facility would shut down approximately 45 days after receiving board approval.

Pipeline, a California-based health care network, bought Westlake in January for $70 million. It was one of three Chicago-area hospitals Tenet Healthcare sold to Pipeline Health and TWG Partners, a health care investment firm founded by Eric Whitaker.

Whitaker, a close friend of former President Barack Obama, served as director of Illinois Department of Public Health and executive vice president and associate dean at the University of Chicago Medicine.

“To maintain Westlake Hospital in its current form is to maintain the past,” Whitaker said during his testimony to the board Tuesday. “Westlake Hospital can’t safely provide the latest technology and services needed for quality care because it needs $30 million in upgrades to facilities, equipment and information technology.”

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.

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