Closing hospital's owner building new ones

BLUE ISLAND The health care company that runs the hospital says it has to close St. Francis.

"I'm very, very sad about this entire situation. I myself feel that the SSM System has let me down in my opinion," said 6th Ward Ald. Gerald Hall.

Local lawmakers and SSM Health Care are exhausting all efforts to keep St. Francis open. SSM, which operates the 108-year-old hospital, announced last week that it planned to close the facility due to financial concerns.

The owners of the hospital say they will hold off seeking state approval to close until all attempts to sell it are exhausted.

"We got doctors, nurses, employees, residents here have all banded together, working together for the solution to keep the hospital open," said Robert Rita, State Rep. 28th District. "In the last week, I have talked to three or four different financial groups that are looking at financing a purchase of the hospital," said Blue Island Mayor Don Peloquin.

The health care company's Dixie Platt says ongoing losses due to higher numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients at the hospital prompted the decision to close it. However, officials are now committed to finding a buyer.

"We also said we would talk with any viable organization about acquiring the hospital. And we are doing that," said Platt.

Platt acknowledged that the plan to close the hospital last week was difficult, considering they plan on building other hospitals including one in Wisconsin.

"For them to be building hospitals in Jefferson City and Mt. Vernon and Janesville and let this one go, it just boggles the mind," said Platt.

St. Benedict Church, across from the hospital, was packed with hospital staff and community members outraged at the possible closing.

"It's going to be difficult for the community. The whole area is surviving on this hospital," said the hospital's Dr. Refat Baridi.

"It still shocks me. It's very sad. It's a lost feeling what the future holds" said Susan Oroszo Camino, also of St. Francis.

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