UPTOWN — The new owner of Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital will inject $25 million into the Uptown medical center, a sign the company will not shutter the hospital, the company said. Local elected officials, however are worried about the hospital’s future, and are working to find ways to make sure it doesn’t close.
California-based Pipeline Health in January bought Weiss and two suburban hospitals for $70 million, according to media reports. The company soon after shuttered Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, saying the closure would help it invest in the more financially viable Weiss and West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park.
The closure of Westlake Hospital came despite Pipeline reassuring nearby residents that the facility would not close, local elected officials have said. Now, Uptown area officials are seeking to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to Weiss.
Ald. James Cappleman (46th), Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) held a community meeting Monday, where Pipeline Health officials were offered the opportunity to discuss their plans for Weiss Hospital.
Pipeline CEO Jim Edwards said at the meeting his company will not shutter the hospital, and instead will invest millions in renovations and new technology, according to ABC7.
“Our intention is to invest in this hospital to keep this hospital open long-term,” Edwards said, according to ABC7.
Earlier on Monday, the company announced it was investing $25 million into Weiss, according to Crain’s. Improvements include a new electronic medical records system, a renovated parking structure, more medical staff and a new behavioral health program.
While Pipeline said it has no plans to shutter Weiss, the company is seeking to sell the hospital’s surface parking lot at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Marine Drive, local legislators said.
That development has officials questioning Pipeline’s plans for the hospital. Despite the community meeting Monday, Feigenholtz still has concerns about the hospital’s future, a spokesperson for the state representative said. A second community meeting to learn more about Pipeline’s plans for Weiss will be held in November, they said.
“Pipeline’s recent history of Westlake Hospital’s abrupt closure set off alarm bells,” Rep. Feigenholtz said in a statement.
Also at issue is that, after buying Weiss Hospital, Pipeline transferred ownership of the hospital facilities and ownership of the underlining real estate to separate corporate entities, according to a letter local lawmakers sent to state regulators. The lawmakers are seeking to learn more about who controls the separate corporations, and what their plans are for the site.
(Weiss Hospital officials were not made available to be interviewed for this report, and Pipeline could not be reached for comment.)
Tressa Feher, Cappleman’s chief of staff, said Pipeline’s decision to invest $25 million into Weiss is a positive development, but that the local leaders are seeking ways to ensure Weiss remains open.
“It sounds good, but there’s a lot of mistrust,” Feher said. “We’re figuring out where we go from here.”
The state’s Health Facilities and Service’s Review Board has jurisdiction over hospital sales and hospital closures, limiting local leaders’ oversight ability of the medical center. But Feigenholtz and Harris have been petitioning the board to closely scrutinize the sale and Pipeline’s intentions with Weiss.
Feher said Cappleman and the community would have a say should Weiss’ surface parking lot be sold, with development of the site requiring Cappleman’s and the city’s approval.
Local legislators said Weiss is a vital provider of medical services to the Uptown area, especially for the area’s low-income patients.
“Weiss is a large Medicaid provider, and it would be irresponsible of us to allow for the sale without asking for transparency and accountability in the process,” Rep. Harris said in a statement.