MetroSouth Medical Center no longer accepting new patients

BLUE ISLAND, Ill. -- MetroSouth Medical Center stopped accepting new patients Friday evening as its owners and community advocates continue to fight over the future of the south suburban hospital.

One official calls the move a "calculated tactic" to force the Blue Island hospital into closure.

MetroSouth temporarily closed its emergency department and obstetrics emergency department and "immediately" stopped accepting new patients, a hospital spokesperson said in a statement Friday evening.

Reached by phone, an employee of the hospital's ER said they stopped accepting patients and closed the department about 7 p.m. Friday.

The decision to stop accepting patients came after the hospital's independent general surgery group on Monday submitted its resignation, the hospital spokesperson said.

The physician group covering oncology and emergency services gave notice that they would cease services to the hospital later this month, the spokesperson said. The hospital's cauterization lab was also suspended due to understaffing.

State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, said the hospital's owner, Quorum Health, is acting on "corporate greed" to shut the hospital down by understaffing it. He said the owners are killing the hospital by attrition because they didn't get state approval earlier this week to shut it down.

"This appears to be a calculated tactic," Rita said. "It's a plan B because they didn't get what they wanted."

Rita claimed the hospital has failed to extend contacts with doctors and vendors, assuming a Sept. 30 closing date, even though that date was not approved by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.

"This is calculated corporate greed," Rita said. "This is irritating. If the board asks them to delay (the closure of the hospital), they're obligated to keep it running."

In the hospital's statement, MetroSouth CEO John Walsh said "Patient care and safety is our highest priority. We intend to take every step necessary to avoid impacting our ability to provide a safe level of care to our patients."

Quorum Health didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

Anne Igoe, Vice President for Health Systems at SEIU Healthcare, said MetroSouth employees got notice Friday evening that the hospital stopped accepting patients.

"It's depressing," Igoe said. "This hospital made a commitment to the community. Now it's turning away folks to other hospitals."

She said the hospital currently has 59 patients and 118 staff left.

MetroSouth had already told employees the facility would shut down Sept. 30, but it failed this week to get state approval to do so. The next board meeting is set for Oct. 22.

Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas, who had fought to keep MetroSouth open, switched sides this week, asking the board to approve the hospital's closure.

On Monday, People's Choice Hospital, a hospital management company and potential buyer, sued Quorum Health, claiming Quorum engaged in bad-faith negotiation tactics before abruptly ending sale talks in August.

The owners of MetroSouth said in July that they would shut down the hospital if no new buyer was found.

MetroSouth would be the second Chicago area hospital to close this year after being bought by an out-of-state corporation. Westlake Hospital, in west suburban Melrose Park, closed last month and filed for bankruptcy months after its new owners said the hospital was no longer profitable and needed to be shut down.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire - Copyright Chicago Sun-Times 2019.)