Melrose Park lawyers say Pipeline Health is disregarding Westlake Hospital order

MELROSE PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Lawyers for the village of west suburban Melrose Park filed an emergency motion Wednesday to hold Pipeline Health in contempt of court.

They claim Pipeline is blatantly disregarding a Cook County judge's temporary restraining order to keep Westlake Hospital open.

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The temporary suspension affects all inpatient admissions and surgeries at Westlake Hospital.

Pipeline Health, which recently purchased Westlake Hospital, said earlier this year that it would be closing the hospital because it's losing nearly $2 million there each month. Pipline officials announced Tuesday morning a temporary suspension of services at the 230-bed hospital because of a decline in staff. They said the suspension was put in place to protect patient safety, because Westlake staff were not showing up to work.

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Lawyers for the village of west suburban Melrose Park are filing an emergency motion to hold Pipeline Health in contempt of court.

Cook County Judge Eve Reilly said Tuesday afternoon that while she understands that insufficient staffing can constitute an emergency, the residents of Melrose Park deserve to have public health. Reilly issued a temporary restraining order, which means the hospital needs to stay fully operational and needs to have proper staffing until a decision is made about the hospital's future.

"The liars and the cheaters are still at work. They are ignoring the court's order," State Rep. Chris Welch said Wednesday in Springfield. "Their team are at Westlake Hospital still turning employees and staff away this morning. That cannot be tolerated. Their contempt for Illinois law has been demonstrated this entire time. Their contempt for Judge Reilly's order yesterday should not be tolerated... They are trying to destroy our community and we cannot allow it."

"My phone's been burning. The trucks are there, taking equipment out, telling employees that if they do show up for work, they're not going to get paid," Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico said Wednesday. "As the representative said, I guess the law doesn't apply to Pipeline. It just doesn't. They do what they want, when they want."

Community members brought 3,000 of postcards and letters to lawmakers in Springfield on Wednesday, asking them to save the hospital.

"Our community is already affected disproportionately by health disparities. We have high levels of heart disease and diabetes. Hospitals like Westlake aren't just a hospital. It's also a place where they have wellness programs, domestic violence programs. Those are the important things for our community, so we can address the overall health of our community," said Lilian Jimenez, associate director of the PASO West Suburban Action Project.

"At the end of the day, what troubles me the most, is the folks that are affected by this are black and brown, the people who are most vulnerable, and I hated to see it become a green issue," Serpico said.

They also asked lawmakers in Springfield to support HB123, which Welch said would give the governor statutory authority to get involved in the process and would roll back a 2015 law signed by former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

The bill would require any organization trying to close a hospital to do a community needs assessment and provide financial disclosures, which Welch said were not done in the case of Westlake Hospital.

A final decision on Westlake's future is expected April 30.
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