SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – State Reps. Kathleen Willis, D-Northlake, and Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, are continuing their push to keep Westlake Hospital open by passing legislation that makes it harder for wealthy health management companies to purchase local hospitals and then close down to pad profits.
“Hospitals need every resource made available to them so they can stay open and continue serving local residents. This is especially true for Westlake, which has served residents for nearly 100 years,” Willis said. “Current law makes very easy for big corporations to put profits ahead of patient care by closing hospitals; my bill repeals that law, making it harder for for-profit entities to shut hospitals down.”
Willis and Welch recently introduced House Bill 123 to make it more difficult for hospitals to close and passed the legislation through the House recently. The bill mandates that any attempt to close or downsize a hospital must be justified by a certificate of need from the institution’s owner. Current law allows for an exemption for a certificate, and the bill corrects this by empowering the governor to reverse a decision made by the Health Facilities Services Review Board regarding those exemptions and potential hospital closures.
Recently, the Melrose Park-located Westlake Hospital was slated to close by its owner, Pipeline Health, after they promised to help the struggling institution. In recent days Pipeline Health announced that they were moving forward with closing Westlake months earlier than originally announced. However, a court order blocking Pipeline from expediting Westlake’s closure was issued this week. This will help keep the hospital open until the Health Facilities Services Review Board can fully review Pipeline’s application. Willis and Welch welcome the ruling, and are continuing to push for a comprehensive process to assure companies consider local health needs before closing facilities like Westlake.
Westlake Hospital has served residents for nearly a century, and primarily assists black and brown communities. The hospital holds 230 beds and employs nearly 700 people, and closing this facility could result in potentially longer emergency response times and overflow at the Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park. Willis’ and Welch’s bill are spearheading this legislation with the hopes of keeping Westlake Hospital open.
“Pipeline officials lied to us when they declared their intent to help prevent Westlake from shutting its doors,” Welch said. “Even more egregiously, when Pipeline saw the vast outpouring of community support to keep Westlake open, they unconscionably backed a plan to close the hospital down months earlier than their initial announcement. We will continue our efforts to keep Westlake open and this legislation is part of that process to ensure that residents have access to quality care.”
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