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Decision on Portage Park Hospital's Future Set for December

By Heather Cherone | October 28, 2013 4:40pm
 Officials at Our Lady of the Resurrection are considering closing the Portage Park hospitals, but opponents said that would turn Portage Park into a "health care desert."
Officials at Our Lady of the Resurrection are considering closing the Portage Park hospitals, but opponents said that would turn Portage Park into a "health care desert."
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DNAInfo/Heather Cherone

PORTAGE PARK — A decision about the fate of Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center is expected in December as hospital officials weigh whether to shutter the Portage Park hospital while keeping its emergency room open, Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said Monday.

Hospital leaders met Friday with Cullerton and other elected officials concerned about the impact the proposed closure would have on the Far Northwest Side.

"Their plan is not real clear," Cullerton said. "When I asked how many beds they were eliminating, they said the plan was still developing."

The fierce opposition to the proposed closure from employees, residents and elected officials caught hospital officials off guard, Cullerton said. A group of employees have launched an online petition and begun lobbying elected officials in an effort to block the closure.

"[Hospital officials] don't understand the [Portage Park] community," Cullerton said, adding that he believes Presence Health, which operates 12 Catholic hospitals in the Chicago area including Our Lady of the Resurrection, is "running from the community," which has a high percentage of people who are uninsured and poor.

Eighty percent of the hospital's patients were covered by Medicare or Medicaid, or paid out of pocket, according to the hospital’s 2011 report to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The 269-bed hospital expects to lose $20.7 million this year and another $5.7 million next year, according to a memo sent to the nearly 900 employees who work at the medical center at 5645 W. Addison St. by hospital CEO John Baird.

Presence Health spokeswoman Angela Benander said in a statement the meeting was productive and will help hospital leaders craft a "workable plan" for the hospital "with an appropriate complement of inpatient services, comprehensive emergency services and outpatient services."

That plan, which could include reinvestment in Our Lady of the Resurrection if the changes save enough money, is expected to be presented to the Presence Health board in December, Benander said.

Hospital officials had proposed ending in-patient services at the hospital while keeping the emergency room open. State law requires hospitals with emergency rooms to have at least 100 beds.

Patients who need to be admitted to a hospital would be transferred to Resurrection Medical Center, 7435 W. Talcott Ave., five miles away, according to hospital officials.

Cullerton said Baird told him the hospital would be increasing "ambulatory and primary care" at the same time it was scaling back in-patient services. Cullerton said it was unclear what impact that would have on hospital patients and residents of the Far Northwest Side.

"I don't know how they are coming to this decision," said Cullerton, adding that he has requested another meeting with hospital officials about their plans. In addition, the alderman said he hopes to address the hospital's board before they make a final decision on the hospital's future.

Hospital officials never requested assistance from any of the elected officials represented at Friday's meeting, including U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley and Luis Gutierrez, Cullerton said.

"I'm concerned it is a forgone conclusion," Cullerton said. "It will hurt people's ability to get health care."

The move is especially confusing because of the population growth on the city's Far Northwest Side, which has packed local elementary and high schools, Cullerton said.

"I hope they take another look," Cullerton said. "I'm hopeful we can save the health care services and those jobs."

It is unclear how many people would lose their jobs if the proposed closure occurs. Those job losses would be felt throughout the neighborhood, Cullerton said.

"It would hurt Portage Park, no doubt about it," Cullerton said. "It would be a double whammy."