Hospital cautiously optimistic about buyer

BLUE ISLAND St. Francis Hospital in Blue Island was scheduled to close due to finical problems, but a deal that's in the works could keep it open.

The deal is still in the early stages, according to its parent's company, SSM Health Care, and is a nonbinding agreement with Transition Healthcare. That's good news according to employees.

"We care about the patients. We care with why we're there. It's just my second home," said Debbie Smith, who has worked at St. Francis for 37 years. She said employees were devastated to hear about the hospital would close.

"The administration has been great supporting us. They've had job fairs, sent us to classes for resumes and interviewing. They've been wonderful," said Smith.

The owner of the hospital said the rising cost of care for uninsured and Medicaid patients led to the decision to close its hospital. The group appealed unsuccessfully to dozens of hospital operators and investors.

Now, the tentative agreement with Transition Healthcare is giving employees and patients a glimmer of hope.

"Everyone involved is hopeful of reaching a satisfactory agreement," said Robert Emmers, MSMC investors, a group working with Transition Healthcare.

In a memo to staff, the chief operating officer wrote: We continue to work through the details and we're cautiously optimistic at this point.

The mayor of Blue Island wants not only to save the city's biggest employer, but also for the hospital to grow and expand.

"Bringing other doctors into the hospital, expanding the heart care, diabetes care, having a senior center, something with Catholic Charities setting up a home close by," said Mayor Don Peloquin, Blue Island.

St. Francis hopes an announcement about a possible deal will be made sometime next week.

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