CHICAGO – Activists say Chicago’s Mercy Hospital is still in danger of shutting its doors, despite a deal for new owners to take it over.
The Chicago Health Equity Coalition, the group of health care activists that fought to keep Mercy Hospital open, is now fighting to keep it a full-service hospital when it’s sold to new owners at the end of the month.
The group claims that the non-profit wants to clear the way to close the hospital in two years and eliminate an agreement put in place to keep Mercy as a full-service hospital until 2029.
“The fight ain’t over,” said Rod Wilson with Lugenia Burns Hope Center.
Last month, Trinity Health announced it had reached a deal to sell the Bronzeville hospital to Insight Chicago, a non-profit organization. But activists say Trinity is petitioning the city of Chicago to nullify a covenant put in place by Mercy’s original owners, Sisters of Mercy, that requires the hospital to remain a full-service hospital until 2029.
“And the city and the state are watching this happen. We have to dig up information. There are covenants on the book,” said 4th Ward Alderman Sophia King.
“This is the thing that saved the hospital in the first place, so want to ensure that the city keeps this in place for the next owner,” said Christine Pao with St. James Catholic Church.
In a joint statement, Mercy says it has been in discussions with the city regarding the future of the tax increment financing (TIF) and redevelopment agreement at Mercy Hospital. In all, two scenarios have been explored, termination of the TIF and an assignment of the TIF.
Insight Chicago, for its part, says it is committed to operating a full-service hospital for the long term, but certainly at least through December 31, 2029. The organization also says they are interested in the TIF assignment to help deliver much-needed improvements to the hospital building. The healthcare activists say TIFs are not the issue but rather the long-term future of the hospital.
“This agreement is not what we fought for,” said Shannon Bennett, with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. “We didn’t fight to be back out here in two years.”
Ultimately, it will be up to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration to decide whether she will assign to Insight Chicago the TIF and redevelopment agreement. The activists call on the city and state to keep a close eye on this deal before it closes at the end of the month.