'We need a hospital right here': Rally fights to preserve services at Franciscan Health Hammond

HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) -- Health Hammond. The effort comes after news that the hospital will reduce services later this year.

It's a hospital that has a history in Hammond going back more than 100 years.

On Monday, a plan was approved by the Franciscan Alliance Corporate Board to transfer many of their services to other nearby hospitals.

"I've been emotional as anybody on this. This has not been an easy decision," said Patrick Maloney, CEO at Franciscan Health in Dyer, Hammond and Munster.

Maloney said eight beds in the ER will remain, as will some outpatient services. He also said consultants recommended the facility close completely due to the cost of maintaining parts of the aging facility, however, the board committed to keeping some service.

"There are a lot of emotions, a lot of memories here, but we can't go back to the 1970s," Maloney said. "We are now in 2020 and healthcare has changed."

"There are places in Hammond where we could if a newer facility wanted to be built. There are places we could do that, places that make sense," said Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. "We weren't even approached!"

Mayor McDermott said he was only told an hour before the announcement was made earlier this week.

"It could result in death and probably will," the mayor said. "I'm not trying to be dramatic but this is an important hospital."

Some opposed to the changes said this will hurt residents nearby.

"We have families that come in daily, who don't have transportation to another hospital, l that don't have sufficient funds to go to a better hospital. This is the best hospital we have locally," said Hammond resident and hospital worker Esmeralda Perales.

Two local pastors said they are looking for the Franciscan tradition in the decision to reduce service.

"As much as I recognize the very difficult financial decisions to make in the changing health care scene, they also have values to live up to," said Rev. Mike Pennanen with First Presbyterian Church Hammond.

"We do believe Franciscan with Christian roots that God is the God of justice and part of justice is giving people the right protection and the right care," added Rev. Sam Hamstra with Anthem Church Hammond. "We need a hospital right here, where people can get quickly and get the care that they deserve."
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