ROSELAND — The future of Roseland Community Hospital remains in limbo and for that reason community activists say they have organized a town hall meeting to update residents about the medical facility and health care options on the far South Side.
The town hall meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Aug. 19 at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps. Community Center, 1250 W. 119th St.
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Tim Eagan, Roseland's chief restructuring officer intend to be there, said the Rev. Gregory Livingston, pastor of Mission of Faith Baptist Church in Roseland.
Organizers say they have also invited Gov. Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other health officials but there has been no confirmation they will attend.
"Mr. Eagan will provide an update on the hospital. Ald. Austin (whose ward includes RCH) will talk about the importance of having a hospital in Roseland. And Ald. Fioretti will talk about the benefit of having a medical district in the community since he has one in his ward," said Livingston.
The 162-bed hospital at 45 W. 111th St. is also located in a medical district. There are three more medical districts in Illinois including one on the West Side.
Last week, Quinn announced the state would provide $47 million in grants from its Illinois Jobs Now! program to 15 hospitals in Cook County, and RCH was among them. Roseland will receive $3.5 million to renovate its obstetrics and surgery areas. In June, Quinn awarded the hospital a $350,000 grant that allowed the hospital to continue meeting payroll.
Previously Sharon Thurman, a spokeswoman for RCH, said it would need millions to remain open.
"If we do not get the $7 million we would have to start transferring patients to other hospitals," Thurman said. "(And) it's unlikely we will be able to remain open."
The hospital has already laid off 68 employees and cut executive pay to save $700,000 a month, and had considered turning the hospital into an outpatient-only facility, added Thurman.
Travel is a big concern for Roseland residents who already must trek to Advocate Christ Hospital in south suburban Oak Lawn for trauma care. And the next closest hospital to Roseland is Advocate Trinity Hospital, which is 5.6 miles away.
For that reason alone, community activists contend it is a matter of life and death that Roseland has its own hospital.
"If Roseland Hospital should close, it would be trauma for those of us living on the far South Side, which already does not have any trauma centers even though most of the trauma victims are on this side of town," said Diane Latiker, founder and executive director of Kids Off the Block Inc., a nonprofit organization in Roseland for at-risk youth.
Most of the children in Kids Off the Block "go to Roseland Hospital for medical care and so do their parents," Latiker said. "Roseland [Hospital] can't close because, without a general hospital to go to, many people would die."
The Rev. Leonardo Gilbert, pastor of Sheldon Heights Church of Christ and a longtime Roseland activist, said single mothers would suffer the most from a closure.
"I drive up and down this area every day as a Roseland resident myself, and I see young mothers with their children walking to the hospital on a regular basis," Gilbert said. "They have no cars or jobs to fall back on, only their neighborhood hospital, and now they may lose it. This area is already a food desert. If Roseland hospital closes, it will be a medical desert as well."
Whitney Brunch, a 26-year-old mother of six, is one of those single mothers who would be affected by a closure.
"[In March] I moved to Roseland from the West Side, where I took my kids to Mount Sinai Hospital," Brunch said. "Now, I'm thinking that was a mistake."