Community voices opposition to closing of Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park

MELROSE PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- The public got a chance to be heard about the plan to close Westlake Hospital in west suburban Melrose Park Monday, and many are vocally opposing the plan.

If the hospital closes, services like intensive care would be shifted to West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park.

Dozens of medical professionals packed a public hearing, eager to voice their opposition to the plan to close Westlake. For the better part of a century, the hospital has served small west suburban communities like Melrose Park.

"I live one block away. I wear a Life Alert. I'm 88 years old and I will fight the fight until I'm 180," said Nora OuDeau, former Westlake employee.

"Our patients are the working poor and homeless. Our patients are medically complicated because either they don't take their medication or they don't see doctors because they don't have the money," said Shelly Petrulis, nurse at Westlake.

Pipeline Health purchased Westlake Hospital, and in February suddenly announced it would be shutting down.

"The competitive healthcare environment in the Chicago-area-there are three hospitals in a seven-mile radius of Westlake--along with a decrease in patient demand at Westlake have resulted in an unstainable financial strain on the hospital for many years, one that has accelerated in recent weeks," Pipeline said in a statement at the time it announced the closure.

The news is not sitting well.

"They swore under oath that they would keep Westlake open," said State rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (IL-7).

Doctors and nurses say Westlake has long been the west suburban safety net hospital. Closing it, they said, leaves the most vulnerable population without care.

"They have no other place to go because we are the only hospital with psychiatric services," Petrulis said.

"There are 50 behavior health beds at the hospital. That helps people throughout our community," said State Rep. Kathleen Willis (IL-77).

"We've been inundated with calls saying, 'What's going to happen to us?'" said Health Commission Executive Director Jesse Rosas. "All I can do is say, we are going to stand behind you."

"Just because we are predominantly brown or black with Medicaid or Medicare or uninsured does not mean that we can be disposed of," said Petrulus.

Pipeline Health said Westlake Hospital has been denied state funding for years, hemorrhaging money, but the community is fighting to keep their care in Melrose Park.
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