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Chicago's Mercy Hospital has a potential buyer

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Mercy Hospital & Medical Center in Chicago has secured a nonbinding purchase agreement with Insight Chicago just months before it is slated to close its doors, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Under terms of the deal, still being negotiated, Insight Chicago would operate Mercy Hospital as a full-service, acute care facility. Insight Chicago is a nonprofit affiliated with a Flint, Mich.-based biomedical technology company.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval, but if it goes through, it would keep the 170-year-old safety-net hospital open. 

Securing a potential buyer is the latest in a series of events related to the Chicago hospital.

On Feb. 10, Mercy filed for bankruptcy protection, citing mounting financial losses and losses of staff that challenged its ability to provide safe patient care. 

The bankruptcy filing came just a few weeks after the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board rejected a plan from Mercy's owner, Trinity Health, to build an outpatient center in the neighborhood where it planned to close Mercy. The same board unanimously rejected Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity's plan to close the hospital in December.

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

Mercy said that until the pending deal with Insight Chicago is signed and approved by regulators, it still plans to close the facility. If the agreement is reached before the May 31 closure, Mercy will help transition services to Insight Chicago, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. 

Insight Chicago told local NPR affiliate WBEZ that it has a difficult task ahead to build community trust and address the financial issues that have plagued the Chicago hospital.

"I think the big main point we want to understand between now and then is the community needs to build trust with the community, and I think to build trust we have to tell the truth and be sincere," Atif Bawahab, chief strategy officer at Insight, told WBEZ. "And there's a reality of the situation as to why [the hospital] is going bankrupt and why several safety net hospitals are struggling."

In its bankruptcy filing, Mercy said its losses have averaged about $5 million per month and reached $30.2 million for the first six months of fiscal year 2021. The hospital also said it has accumulated debt of more than $303.2 million over the last seven years, and the hospital needs more than $100 million in upgrades and modernizations.

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