Deal to rescue St. Francis Hospital

May 8, 2008 5:35:52 PM PDT
A financial savior has rescued St. Francis Hospital. The transfer of ownership for the south suburban medical center means it will remain open, serving Blue Island and surrounding communities.The catholic organization that runs St. Francis confirmed it essentially gave the hospital away, and it will not receive any financial proceeds from the transfer. St. Francis now will be a for-profit hospital owned by a private investment group.

Thursday's announcement of the sale was cheered by hospital staffers, local business owners and area residents.

Private investors believe they can cure the financial woes of the century-old non-profit Catholic hospital -- and make money doing it.

"We hope to have the beds as full as this lobby," said Arnie Kimmel of Transition Health Care.

Many of the hospital's 1,400 employees had been looking for work elsewhere after the Catholic-based organization that runs St. Francis said earlier this year it could not find a buyer. The group offered to give it away, but there were no takers until a start-up firm funded by Falcon Investments stepped in.

"[W]ith the support of the staff we'll be here long-term," said Larry Krule of Falcon Investment.

"It's a good day that St. Francis is still here now, and other generations will be born here in the future," said Donald Peloquin, Blue Island mayor.

If the state signs off on the ownership change, the new operators promise $30 million in upgrades to technology and patient rooms. They also vow to keep employment levels the same.

"Very, very stressful. Very, very emotional. We're just very happy it's got a positive outcome," said surgical assistant Linda Defranza.

"Under new management, they may want to outsource. We'll just have to wait and see what the game plan is going to be," said Delonda Robinson, a hospital information clerk.

St. Francis Hospital is located a block from Blue Island's downtown and provides a significant amount of cash that keeps local printing shops, florists and restaurants operating.

The family that owns Island's Cafe, for example, could not be happier that St. Francis has a savior.

"About 50-percent of our business comes from them. It's a lot. It would have hurt us if they were shut down," said Alban Besiri of Island's Cafe.

It will take two or three months for the transfer to receive state approval. Once it does, Francis Hospital will become known as the Metro South Medical Center.

ABC7 Chicago asked the new owners how they intend to make a profit when the old owners could not. They declined to answer.


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