HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) -- The mayor of Hammond said Franciscan Health's decision to close their emergency department in the city, which he says leaves residents without adequate care.
Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. said he feels betrayed and blindsided by the closure. He said he was given assurances that at the very least the emergency department would remain when the hospital drastically downsized its operations, but that is also going away.
"Everybody comes here," said Cassandra Thompson, mother of an ER patient. "So having to travel God knows where to get emergency services is really going to be hard now."
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.
But 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. And so Hammond's only hospital, in this city of nearly 80,000, is ceasing inpatient admissions and closing its emergency department by the end of the year.
Patients are being directed to Franciscan Health's locations in Dyer and Munster.
"They're making a financial decision that's going cost people their lives, and I'm not the kind of person that just throws that around willy-nilly, but there's going to be people in the coming decades that need to get to a hospital right now," Mayor McDermott said. "They used to have a hospital right in their back yard, and instead they're going to have to go ten minutes out of their way, and they're going to die."
In a statement, the hospital system said, "We believe this decision is best suited to continue our care for all of Northwest Indiana. Franciscan Health and the Franciscan Health Foundation remain committed to serving the needs of all of Lake County and will continue initiatives to protect the most vulnerable and provide compassionate care to those who need it most."
McDermott said he's now working to find another healthcare provider to locate to Hammond.
ABC7 reached out to Franciscan Health but they declined our request for an interview.