Mercy, Chicago's oldest, 1st teaching hospital, will close, transition to outpatient center

South Side Transformation Plan, hospital merger, failed in May

ByABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Hospital merger aims to transform healthcare on Chicago's South Side
St. Bernard, Mercy, Advocate Trinity and South Shore are on board to combine their assets to establish a new hospital system.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The city's oldest and first teaching hospital, Mercy, announced Wednesday that the medical center will close next year.

Mercy faced financial turmoil for decades as the population in the Bronzeville area declined, hospital reimbursements have decreased and capital needs have increased, hospital officials said.

"The decision to discontinue services at Mercy Hospital was not an easy one. But patients on the South Side have unmet needs within the current system," Mercy Hospital President Carol Schneider said. "The transformation from an inpatient model to one with greater access to outpatient services will better address the disparate outcomes in health from which our community suffers today."

In January, four South Side hospitals joined together to create a system they said would expand access to preventive care and quality services while providing jobs and training.

They included Mercy, St. Bernard, Advocate Trinity and South Shore.

The South Side Transformation Plan was to be funded with public and private commitments over 10 years for a total investment of $1.1 billion. It also requested that the state commit $520 million over five years as part of the Illinois Hospital Transformation Program funding.

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But during the last few hours of the Spring Legislative Session, the Illinois Legislature changed course and elected not to fund the plan. The South Side Coalition disbanded at the end of May, as they saw no way forward, Mercy officials said.

St. Bernard President and CEO Charles Holland said he hoped to improve access to quality health care for residents in some of the city's most impoverished neighborhoods.

"The South Side of Chicago is in a health care crisis," Holland said. "It's unfolding as we speak and we need to address it together."

The January effort came as all of the hospitals posted multi-million-dollar net losses in 2018 and the communities they're in continue to face significant health inequities.

"Just because of where you live, you shouldn't have a lower life expectancy or not have access to quality health care than someone with an address that's five miles away from where you live," Holland said.

Trinity Health officials said Wednesday they significantly invested in Mercy, but it continued to have operating losses and requires at least $100 million of additional investments to operate.

Mercy Hospital is working on plans to develop an Outpatient Care Center that offers diagnostics, urgent care and care coordination. More than 50,000 patients can be cared for in this facility, offering preventive and diagnostic care earlier for local residents and helping to prevent many emergency room visits and hospitalizations, officials said Wednesday.

The hospital's final date of operation will be no sooner than Feb. 1, 2021 and no later than May 31, 2021.