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Coalition demands community members sit on new Mercy Hospital board

The Chicago Health Equity Coalition also wants the potential new owners of Mercy Hospital to meet with them biweekly for two months to create a timeline of reopening a full-service hospital.

Rev. Robin Hood, Founding member of Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere, speaks about the victory of the community to retain Mercy Hospital during a press conference by Chicago Health Equity Coalition outside of Mercy Hospital & Medical Center at 2525 S Michigan Ave in Bronzeville.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The Chicago Health Equity Coalition on Thursday demanded to have seats on Mercy Hospital’s new board just days after a state review board cleared Trinity Health to sell it.

The sale of the historic Bronzeville hospital to the not-for-profit Insight Chicago for $1 hasn’t been finalized, but the approval means the hospital is closer to remaining open.

Trinity Health announced in July that the hospital would close sometime this spring. In December, state regulators rejected a plan to close Mercy Hospital. Then, in February, the hospital filed bankruptcy.

Trinity Health said the hospital was losing $5 million a month and needed a capital investment of over $100 million.

Meanwhile, Trinity Health plans to set up an outpatient facility about two miles from Mercy Hospital that will focus on diagnostic testing and preventive medicine.

The coalition — representing more than a dozen labor, faith, medical and civil rights groups — also wants Insight Chicago to commit to restoring Mercy to a full-service and teaching hospital. It also expects Insight Chicago to continued worker bargaining with the current union at Mercy.

Chicago Health Equity Coalition also wants biweekly meetings for the first two months after the acquisition.

“Insight, you better be listening, we will not have token representation. We will be voting members on the board or else,” said Shannon Bennett, executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. “We are not going to be no advisory members; we are not going to be on no token community board. We are going to vote, and it’s going to be equitable.”

The coalition is demanding the board be equally divided among administrators, medical experts and community members.

“We are committed to ensuring that members of the community are represented on the hospital board,” said Anel Ruiz, spokeswoman for Insight Chicago. “We are in early stages of the transition and are looking forward to continued dialogue with all stakeholders so we can establish an appropriate process for board membership.”

The potential sale to Insight Chicago was met with apprehension from the coalition since it believed the Michigan-based health system only planned to keep the hospital open for two years. It has since warmed up to the idea after Insight CEO Dr. Jawad Shah said it planned to remain open for a long time to come.

The Rev. Robin Hood, director of organizing with the Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere, said the coalition will make sure that promise is kept.

“You said that you were not going to let this hospital go after two years, we are going to check that,” Hood said. “You said you have no problem with community input on the board, we are going to check that.”

“And if our checks are not working out, we are going to have to check you out,” Hood 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.

Shannon Bennett, executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, talks about expectations of the new organization likely to take over Mercy Hospital.
Shannon Bennett, executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, talks about expectations of the new organization likely to take over Mercy Hospital.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times