Chicago's Mercy Hospital can't close, Illinois regulators say

Illinois regulators unanimously rejected a plan for Mercy Hospital & Medical Center in Chicago to close.

The 292-bed hospital on the South Side announced plans in July to close in 2021, pending state approval. The hospital said the decision was made because it suffers monthly operating losses of $4 million. 

Mercy also cited a failed $1.1 billion merger in its closure decision. It sought to join forces with three other South Side Chicago hospitals — Advocate Trinity, South Shore and St. Bernard — to create an independent health system

Mercy Hospital's parent organization, Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health, said in lieu of operating the South Side hospital, it would open an outpatient clinic with an urgent care center. 

But members of the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted Dec. 15 to prevent the hospital from closing.

In making the decision, the board said it feared patients would lose access to healthcare amid a pandemic if they allowed the closure to proceed, according to radio station WBEZ

Although the initial vote prevents the hospital from closing now, Mercy has a second opportunity to persuade the board and can still pursue closure in court. It can also close the facility and face fines.

The vote from the review board comes after months of protests from physicians, healthcare advocates and community organizers, who say that closing the hospital would create a healthcare desert on Chicago's South Side. 

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