The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Our Lady of the Resurrection Hospital Sold, Will Remain Open, CEO Says

  Community First Healthcare of Illinois Inc. signed an agreement to buy the Portage Park hospital.
Community First Healthcare of Illinois Inc. signed an agreement to buy the Portage Park hospital.
View Full Caption
DNAInfo/Heather Cherone

PORTAGE PARK — Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center will be sold to Community First Healthcare of Illinois Inc. and remain open as a full-service hospital for at least five years, Presence Health officials said Monday.

Community First Healthcare of Illinois will also rehire Our Lady of the Resurrection hospital's 900 employees, Presence Health CEO Sandra Bruce said.

Bruce declined to reveal the price Community First Healthcare paid for the 269-bed hospital at 5645 W. Addison St., but said the recently formed company would invest $20 million into the Portage Park hospital during the next five years.

Heather Cherone details the sale and what this means for the Portage Park community.:

Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said he was relieved the hospital and its emergency room would remain open.

"A lot of people rely on that hospital," Cullerton said. "I think this is good news."

Vacation and sick time accrued by the hospital's nearly 900 employees will be honored by the hospital's new owner, Cullerton said.

Ald. Nick Sposato (36th) said the closure of the hospital would have caused a big hardship for elderly residents of the Far Northwest Side.

"We need that hospital in the community," Sposato said. "This sounds like good news."

A final sale agreement with Community First Healthcare is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Bruce said.

Presence Health, the largest Catholic health system in Illinois, will contract with Community First Healthcare to provide "proactive health care" services to residents of the Far Northwest Side to help them stay healthy and manage chronic conditions.

"The bottom line is that Community First Healthcare has a vision to coordinate and integrate the care of the Portage Park community," Bruce said.

Community First Healthcare is financially backed by "boutique investment bank" Muneris Capital Group, which specializes in acquiring distressed health care companies and works to return them to financial stability, said Community First Healthcare's Ed Green, a health care lawyer and partner at Chicago-based law firm Foley & Lardner.

Community First Healthcare is focused on growth, not cutting, Green said.

"No one will even notice the hospital has been purchased," Green said.

But the company may change the name of the hospital, which was once known as Northwest Community Hospital.

The firm is considering expanding and modernizing the hospital's emergency room, Green said.

"That may be one way to start down the path toward stabilizing the hospital," said Green, who praised the hospital's staff and doctors for their commitment to the hospital.

Community First Healthcare is a "benefit corporation," which means under Illinois law that in addition to maximizing profit it has "the increased purpose of considering society and the environment in addition to seeking a profit."

The firm will file an annual report with state officials documenting how it believes it has benefited the community, Green said.

"It is really a hybrid between a for-profit company and a not-for-profit," Green said.

Community First Healthcare is an attempt to navigate the changes in the health care industry prompted by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Green said.

"Portage Park will really be at the epicenter of this profound change," Green said. "We want to be at the forefront of this change."

One of the company's principals is Bill Brownlow, who was chief financial officer of Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet for 17 years before stepping down in 2013.

Community First Healthcare "made the most sense" as the new owner of Our Lady of the Resurrection hospital because it agreed to most of the requirements laid out by Presence Health in the request for proposals for the sale, Bruce said.

While Presence Health gave Catholic health systems or hospitals as well as not-for-profit firms preference over other bidders in the sale, Community First Healthcare is neither. 

Allan Baumgarten, a Minneapolis-based health-care analyst who studies the Illinois market, said he was surprised that Community First Healthcare was interested in keeping Our Lady of the Resurrection Hospital open as a general acute care facility.

"However, 'acute care facility' can be defined broadly," Baumgarten said. "It will be interesting to hear more details as they become available."

Dr. David Fishman, the director of the hospital's cardiology department, said he and other members of the medical staff planned to meet Tuesday with representatives of Community First Healthcare.

Fishman said he was eager for more information about Community First Healthcare, but pleased the hospital would not close.

"The skeptics and the pessimists said Presence Health officials would announce that no suitable purchasers were found, and the hospital would be closed," Fishman said. "I'm glad that won't happen."

Presence Health announced in March that the hospital was being put up for sale after it lost $9.8 million in 2013 and $12.5 million in 2012, even after extensive cost-cutting efforts. Losses for 2014 could reach $20 million, officials said. 

The hospital's serious financial challenges are due to the declining number of people being admitted to a hospital — an industrywide trend — and the high number of uninsured patients who seek treatment at Our Lady of the Resurrection, officials said.

Every year, more than 47,000 people visit Our Lady of the Resurrection’s emergency room, about 9,000 people are hospitalized there, and 3,600 patients undergo surgery at the hospital, which has been open since 1955, according to data provided by employees.