Westlake Stories: ‘Here Until The Wheels Fall Off’

Sunday, May 5, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Featured image: Anthony Garrison inside of his Maywood home last month. | Sebastian Hidalgo

Anthony Garrison, 35, of Maywood, is a shift supervisor in environmental service who is responsible for making sure that Westlake Hospital is clean and well-organized.

During an interview last month, he said that his paychecks “have been getting shorter and shorter,” with one short by $200. Pipeline’s decision to close Westlake had thrown his life into chaos, but he continued going to work, because he enjoyed his job. 

In his own words, Garrison explained why he continues to fight even as the prospects of his nearly century-old workplace become dimmer with each new day. 

Life before Westlake 

Before Westlake, I worked at Fresh Express in Streamwood. That was rough. I was working six days a week, basically 3:30 p.m. to 2:30 in the morning, inside a freezer. I basically had no life. I worked, came home to sleep and got ready for the next day. It was constant. 

When I came to Westlake, my wife (who worked there for a time, as well) and I were able to enjoy our schedules. We had the same days off. Everything worked out perfectly for us. It’s a 20-minute walk from my house to the hospital. If I take a Lyft or an Uber, it’s $6 or $7. 

On his typical working day 

Once I get in, I check the schedule to see if anyone has called off and, if they have, I modify it. I go up to the fourth floor, stock up equipment, setup everybody, give them keys, paperwork. I start getting calls about what rooms need to be cleaned and start on laundry. Then I head up to the lobby to pull garbage from the front offices. When I’m done, I head to the sixth floor to check rooms and page employees if any of them need to be cleaned. 

Sometimes, when things get busy, we’ll have 20 to 25 minutes to clean a room, so that patients are not waiting hours in the ER. There are times when we’ve cleaned 25 rooms in a night and out of those I probably do about half of them. I’ve gotten written up, because they tell me my job is to make sure everyone else is doing their jobs, but I can’t just sit around and be lazy when rooms need to be cleaned. I have to jump in.

I served eight years in the Marines, so I’m used to doing a bunch of different things and making sure everything gets done by the time I leave. I have no problem with that. It doesn’t bother me as long as the patients are OK and the hospital is running good. 

Garrison served eight years in the Marines, an experience that informs his decision to continue on at Westlake despite Pipeline’s plans to close it. | Sebastian Hidalgo

On the consequences of closing Westlake 

A lot of times, Loyola or Gottlieb are on bypass [not admitting new patients]. Most of the times when we get slammed in the ER, it’s because those hospitals are on bypass. Westlake helps out Loyola and Gottlieb a lot, because they sometimes can’t handle the volume of patients they get.

Where are all the psych patients going to go? We get a lot on the weekends, like on Thursdays and Fridays. Where else do they go? You hear people say Madden. They only have two floors. Here we’ve got plenty of beds.

Since I’ve been at Westlake, a psych patient named Cesar has been coming there. He tells me his story. This guy walks from Chicago to Melrose Park, because he loves it there. He knows they take care of him and give him the treatment that he needs. 

No matter what people may say about the hospital, they may talk bad about it, there are people willing to come back to get what they need. 

‘Lying from the beginning’ 

Pipeline has been lying from the beginning. In court, Pipeline said that they made the decision to close the hospital back in December, a couple of months before they even purchased the hospital. And yet, they told everybody they’d keep it open. You have all of these people who work here and all of these patients. They’re messing with people’s lives just because they want to make all of this money. And they want to throw everybody into the woods and say, ‘Fend for yourself.’ That’s not right. It’s not right at all.

Why he fights 

Westlake is like family for me. Some people have been here for decades and to force them out, to make them stop doing what they love to do — that’s not right. These people are dedicated. That’s why so many of us fight. We’re working jobs we like to do. We like to give patients a good experience. 

I hear people who say they’ve gotten job offers somewhere else. They always tell me, where are you going to go? I ain’t going nowhere. I’ll be here until the wheels fall off.VFP

If you or a loved one wants to share your story about Westlake and how its pending closure might affect you, email us at: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com.

Contact: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com | Facebook: @maywoodnews

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