Tuesday, April 9, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
On Tuesday, a judge ordered Pipeline Health, the owner of Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, to keep the hospital open until at least May 1.
Earlier today, Pipeline Health officials announced in a statement that they temporarily suspended service at Westlake “due to concerns about its ability to continue maintaining a safe environment for patient care due primarily to declining staff rates.” Pipeline also issued 60-day notices to Westlake employees.
On Monday, attorney Ari Scharg, who represents the village of Melrose Park, filed an emergency injunction on the village’s behalf for a temporary restraining order to prevent Pipeline from closing Westlake today.
The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, the state agency responsible for approving change ownership applications and hospital closures, is set to make a final decision on Pipeline’s application to close Westlake on April 30.
Scharg argued that Pipeline was devising a plan to make it seem to the review board and the community that “the hospital is short-staffed and cannot safely care for its patients.”
That narrative, Scharg argued, “is false — the reality is that Pipeline has fired numerous staff members and refused to hire any new employees to replace them.”
Scharg said that Pipeline, “surprised by the community backlash, and no longer confident that the review board will grant its application [… ] has decided to shut down Westlake unilaterally and without Review Board approval.”
During a court hearing held in the Daley Center in Downtown Chicago, Judge Eve M. Reilly thought Scharg’s arguments reasonable and fair enough that she granted the temporary restraining order, which prohibits Pipeline from discontinuing or modifying the scope of any medical service offered by Westlake until they receive approval from the review board.
Judge Reilly also prohibited Pipeline from “creating conditions that change the status quo,” and would result in insufficient staffing necessary to provide the scope of services the hospital offered on April 9, according to her decision.
Those activities include, but aren’t limited to,” failing to maintain facilities and supply levels, firing employees and terminating contracts in such a way that changes the scope of services that Westlake offered on Tuesday.
The restraining order is in effect until May 1. Another court hearing is scheduled for May 1 at 2 p.m.
Tuesday’s court decision continues a fight started by local lawmakers and community leaders against Pipeline ever since the company announced in February that it planned on closing Westlake due to serious financial challenges — two weeks after it purchased the hospital, along with two others in Oak Park and Chicago, from Tenet Healthcare for $70 million.
Last month, the village of Melrose Park filed a lawsuit against Pipeline arguing that the company committed fraud and conspiracy by hiding its real intentions for Westlake from the review board and the community during the purchasing process.
In addition, state Reps. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) and Kathleen Willis (77th) have introduced legislation that would allow the governor to overturn the review board’s decision if the board allows Pipeline to close Westlake. That legislation passed out of committee last month and is currently headed to the full House.
Pipeline has argued in a motion to dismiss Melrose Park’s lawsuit that they did not hide their intentions for Westlake during the purchasing process and did not know the full scope of Westlake’s financial straits before finalizing the purchase. VFP
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