Blue Island's only hospital to close

April 2, 2008 9:17:30 PM PDT
It is a major blow for the residents of south suburban Blue Island. Saint Francis Hospital and Health Center is closing. The owners say they expect to lose $20 million this year.The owners say they did everything possible to try and keep Saint Francis open.

The closing will leave many people looking for a new place to get health care.

As Demetrice Rebb and his children wait outside St. Francis Hospital in Blue Island, he wonders if it will still be open in July when his wife is due to have their baby.

"For me and my wife, this is not good. This is the closest hospital to the community where we can come," said Rabb.

Many will also have to find new doctors. Sherry Sawa's father had surgery at Saint Francis Wednesday.

"Now he has to find a new place to be treated. I know they're talking about another hospital going up, but it's gonna be years before it's done, not a good thing."

After 103 years and $75 million in recent improvements, time is up for the hospital owned by SSM Healthcare. The company says it's been eagerly looking for a buyer for months, but after contacting 28 organizations, only one buyer was interested. And it fell through.

"Even when we assumed to assume the long term debt and give the hospital away for free, no one wanted to take it," said Dixie Platt, SSM Health Care.

The hospital says it lost $40 million since 2002 and it's projected to lose $20 million more this year. Half of its ER patients have no health care insurance or they are on Medicaid, which doesn't cover the full cost of health care.

"If you can't cover the cost of care and there is no end in sight, there just was no other viable option," said Platt.

About 1,400 employees will now be looking for new jobs. SSM Health says it will help transfer some people to other SSM owned hospitals in southern Illinois or across the nation, and it will help employees look for jobs locally.

Still the mayor, who was born in this hospital himself, says this is a blow to the community.

It is expected to be at least 90 days until they lock the doors there. They have a number of procedures they have to go through under state rules before they can close the hospital.

The mayor says he's going to look everywhere to try to find some emergency reash -- measure to keep the doors open.

Saint Francis Hospital is the largest employer in Blue Island. The town's mayor says the economic impact of its closing will be felt throughout the region.

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