Mercy Hospital is one of four hospitals that would have combined under a $1.1 billion merger proposal that failed in May. Credit: Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago

CALUMET HEIGHTS — Four struggling South Side hospitals on Thursday announced a plan to merge and build a new hospital and a network of large stand-alone clinics. But the merger could come at the cost of the existing hospitals.

No details on where the new hospital will be built were revealed. Nor was there a timeline on when any of the four existing hospitals could close, other than a pledge that none would close before the new hospital opens.

The hospitals are:

  • Advocate Trinity Hospital, 2320 E. 93rd St.;
  • Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, 2525 S. Michigan Ave.;
  • South Shore Hospital, 8012 S. Crandon Ave.; and
  • St. Bernard Hospital, 326 W. 64th St.

According to the preliminary plan, the four would merge into a single health care system. The hospitals intend to “build at least one new, state-of-the-art, destination hospital” to replace the existing “aging facilities.” Three to six new community health centers would also be built.

The merger, which carries an estimated cost of $1.1 billion, is to be funded through the existing hospitals’ assets, government funds and private philanthropy. Officials said they have been in talks with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot about funding.

The new hospital will cost an estimated $920 million. The new community health centers are meant to complement the “destination” hospital. They’ll be built at a total cost of $100 million, said Rashard Johnson, president of Advocate Trinity Hospital. 

Lightfoot signaled her support for the plan, saying “all Chicagoans deserve access to preventive care and quality services, close to home.”

She called the proposed merger “an innovative proposal to ensure Chicago’s south side residents have access to quality and accessible healthcare services,” Lightfoot said.

“We celebrate the hospitals’ commitment to hearing directly from neighborhood leaders and area residents about local needs. The City also looks forward to close collaboration with the new entity to ensure that promoting health equity and economic growth in the region remain core to any transformation plans.”

The community health centers will focus on preventative, urgent and primary care, Johnson said, adding that it is “to be determined” if emergency or trauma care will be available through the centers.

No jobs will be lost as a result of the merger, and none of the existing hospitals will close until the new hospital and health centers are constructed, officials said.

The location of the new hospital will be “a joint decision” between the new health care system and community members, said Tim Caveney, president and CEO of South Shore Hospital.

A series of community input sessions is set to begin in February.

As for the fate of the existing hospitals once the new hospital opens, Caveney said, “It’s really a guess as to what will happen.”

The new health system would be led by an independent board of directors, which includes a delegate from each existing provider.

A binding agreement on the proposed merger is expected by mid-2020.

The four hospitals lost a combined $79 million during their 2019 fiscal years, Carol Schneider, president of Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, told the Tribune.

The Daily Line contributed to this report.