HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) -- The city of Hammond is asking a Lake County Superior Court judge to issue a preliminary injunction to stop Franciscan Health from shuttering its downtown ER by the end of the year.
"They swore to us multiple times, we're keeping an eight-bed hospital next to an Emergency Room that's going to be staffed 24/7," said Mayor Tom McDermott. "So for the last year and a half that's been our assumption until about a month ago when they informed us, hey we're shutting down at Christmas, good luck.
If Franciscan is allowed to proceed, ambulance runs will cease on Friday, with remaining operations closing December 31. As it is, a skeleton staff remains, with only a handful of patients being tended to. A large part of the building is already in process of being demolished.
Last year Franciscan Health announced it was drastically downsizing its Hammond location, which used to be called St. Margaret's Hospital, which had been operating with just 10 inpatient beds along with an emergency department.
"I had my heart surgery done, a triple bypass. And it's sad that it's going to go. I don't drive or anything and now the closest one is East Chicago or Munster. And I don't drive. And what if they're on bypass, then what do we do?" said Caroline Hannah, Hammond resident.
Hospital officials said in the past 15 months the location has been averaging fewer than three inpatients a day, and the vast majority of the people who use the ER would be better served with an urgent care or other setting.
Mayor McDermott accused the hospital system of abandoning the poor in favor of wealthier patients in its remaining Indiana campuses. Attorneys for the hospital insisted the closure is financially necessary, and doesn't pose a significant risk to the community.
They point to three hospitals located within six miles of Franciscan, where they said Hammond FD has been transporting most patients to anyway. Hammond's fire chief begged to differ.
"We're going to overwhelm Community, We're going to overwhelm St. Catherine's and we're not going to go to Franciscan near as much because it's kind of hard to justify to pass a hospital up to go to a hospital. So 27,000 calls in five years, those 27,000 calls now are going to be split up between two hospitals mainly," said Chief Jeffrey Smith.
Tuesday's court hearing was continued until Wednesday. McDermott said he's hopeful the judge will order the ER to remain open for another year and a half to provide the city time to find a replacement.