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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Mercy Hospital Sale Finalized, Saving Historic Bronzeville Hospital From Closing

Mercy must remain a full-service hospital, according to the agreement. New owners will meet with residents, activists and medical professionals Tuesday.

Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in Bronzeville on March 29, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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BRONZEVILLE — Mercy Hospital will have a new owner when Michigan-based Insight Chicago takes over the facility at the end of May.

An agreement between the nonprofit and Trinity Health was finalized Saturday weeks after a state review board approved the sale of the hospital for $1. Per the agreement, Mercy must remain a full-service community hospital in order for Insight Chicago to retain its hospital equipment and parking facilities.

Members of the Chicago Health Equity Coalition join fellow member Jaquie Algee (center) as she talks about the group’s efforts to keep Mercy Hospital open during a press conference Thursday morning.

The deal comes a year after Trinity Health announced it would be closing the hospital, prompting the Chicago Health Equity Coalition, a coalition of residents, clergy, and medical professionals, to protest the decision.

Mercy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February, citing operating losses of $7 million per month, according to The Chicago Crusader. The hospital will now move to have the filings dismissed, according to a joint statement released by Trinity and Insight Chicago.

“Insight Chicago is looking forward to operating a community-based hospital that meets the needs of our patients and leverages the regional talent and expertise of Chicago’s healthcare infrastructure,” Dr. Jawad Shah, president and CEO of Insight Chicago, said in a statement.

While Insight Chicago has pledged to keep vital services open — including the emergency and obstetrics departments and the intensive care unit — the coalition still wants the agreement in writing, Rev. Robin Hood told Block Club.

Members of the coalition are scheduled to meet with new owners Tuesday.

In addition to maintaining Mercy as a full service hospital, activists unveiled a list of demands last month detailing their expectations for the 169-year-old institution under new ownership. They also want to see a behavioral health unit, a “commitment to outpatient disease prevention,” and a plan to restore Mercy’s status as a teaching institution.

They also want representation on the hospital board, giving community members who worked to save the hospital direct input on decision making going forward.

The deal now requires sign off from the Catholic Church, since Mercy currently is part of a Catholic health system.

The deal comes after state regulators refused Trinity’s attempts to close the hospital earlier this year, citing the pandemic and an overall dearth of health care on the Near South Side.

The state board then rejected Trinity’s proposal to open a 13,000-square-foot outpatient facility in Bronzeville, saying it wasn’t a sufficient alternative for a closed Mercy Hospital. Trinity is still pursuing that plan, according to the Tribune.

Had Mercy closed, it would have left University of Chicago Medical Center in Hyde Park and Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn as the only hospitals to serve the entire South Side.

South Siders have struggled with poorer health outcomes and disappearing access to medical care for decades. UChicago’s trauma center closed in 1988. Michael Reese Hospital in Bronzeville shut down its trauma division in 1991, in part because UChicago’s closure shifted an enormous burden of care and financial strain onto the facility. That property now is being redeveloped into a multibillion-dollar development.

Those shutdowns left Advocate Christ Medical Center in suburban Oak Lawn as the only Level 1 trauma center close to the South Side for nearly three decades.

UChicago’s trauma center relaunched in 2018 after years of fierce activism from students, organizers and community members. Recent research showed the return of that service was improving emergency care for South Siders.

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