Pipeline Health to close Illinois hospital

Pipeline Health, a Los Angeles-based privately held hospital ownership and management company, plans to close Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill., by July, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

The news comes weeks after Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare completed the sale of three Chicago area hospitals to Pipeline Health.

Pipeline Health previously revealed plans for part-owner and prominent Chicagoan Eric Whitaker, MD, to help turn around Westlake Hospital, Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago and West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, Ill., according to the report. But the company has decided to close the 230-bed, 670-employee Westlake Hospital and intends to ask the state to do so in the second quarter of this year.

The decision reportedly prompted surprise and disapproval from state lawmakers and Melrose Park officials, who pointed to the hospital's crucial role in serving a largely minority community.

Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico said in a news release obtained by the Tribune that "Pipeline Health's shameful lie will rob our communities of a vital asset."

Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, D-Westchester, who was a hospital board member, told the publication the decision "was completely contrary to what we were told during the entire purchasing process. It's going to leave a gaping hole in healthcare right in the middle of a largely black and brown community."

But Pipeline's Dr. Whitaker defended the decision, telling the Tribune that closing Westlake Hospital will help keep the other two purchased Chicago area hospitals sustainable.

"As we looked at the financials, the losses had accelerated tremendously, and it was beyond what we had projected," he said. "To the extent that we would have to pour a lot of capital into Westlake, it really would have endangered the other two hospitals we had as part of the purchase."

Pipeline Health plans to consolidate some services now offered at Westlake Hospital with West Suburban Hospital. Westlake Hospital employees also reportedly will have the opportunity to apply for roles at the other two Chicago area facilities purchased by Pipeline Health.

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