Judge orders suburban Westlake Hospital remain open until May 1

MELROSE PARK, Ill. — A Cook County judge ruled Westlake Hospital must stay open, at least for now.

The century-old suburban hospital was poised to close its doors for good until the village of Melrose Park filed an emergency motion asking a judge to keep it open.

In court Tuesday, the judge ruled Westlake must stay open and properly staffed until May 1, when the state board of review will make a final decision on whether its newest owners can legally close it.

Some patients were discharged or transferred out of the hospital Tuesday after California-based Pipeline Health announced plans to suspend services. The healthcare company says declining staff rates make closures necessary to maintain a safe environment, claiming in a statement that Westlake has been operating with losses of nearly $2 million a month.

Dr. Samuel Yunez says Westlake serves a mainly African-American and Hispanic population and minority communities will be hurt by the closure.

“You don’t have to be a paid consultant to know how this community’s going to be affected when this hospital is closed. My Hispanic community is going to be terribly affected. There’s nothing around here that will be able to provide service to the Hispanics,” Dr.  Yunez said.

Employees tell WGN they anticipated losing their jobs soon, but many have continued coming in and hoping for the best. It is unclear how many Westlake employees would be impacted by a shutdown, or how patient care would proceed. While no official shutdown announcement has come, a job fair scheduled for Tuesday in the Westlake cafeteria has been postponed.

California-based Pipeline Health purchased Westlake and two other local hospitalsin January with consolidation in mind. The closure of Westlake was announced weeks later.

Pipeline said previously that additional patients would be discharged “when clinically appropriate,” or transferred to another hospital. The suspension affects all inpatient admissions and even scheduled surgeries.

Westlake's apparent demise would happen despite weeks of community outrage and protests. A spokesman for Melrose Park called Pipeline's announcement "a manufactured crisis."

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