Mount Sinai Hospital in the North Lawndale neighborhood on March 29, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

NORTH LAWNDALE — A safety-net hospital is growing its rehabilitation services as part of a strategy to achieve more equitable health outcomes for patients living on the South and West sides.

Schwab Rehabilitation, Sinai Chicago’s 102-bed rehabilitation hospital, is partnering with Michigan-based rehabilitation hospital Mary Free Bed to offer more outpatient therapy and inpatient services. While Schwab patients will keep their preferred physicians, Mary Free Bed leaders will come in as contractors to run day-to-day operations and strategy for the rehab center, 1401 S. California Ave.

The partnership is expected to double the hospital’s capacity for outpatient and ambulatory rehab care over the next five years, said Airica Steed, Sinai Chicago’s chief operating officer. Inpatient capacity at Schwab will also grow by 10 percent within the first two years, Steed said.

That expansion will make services like physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology more accessible to residents who need them, said Bruce Brasser, vice president for Mary Free Bed and interim president at Schwab Rehabilitation.

“We want to be able to serve more of those patients, and have to receive the care they need, at the exact time that is best for them,” Brasser said.

Mary Free Bed’s expertise will allow the hospital to optimize the work of Sinai’s community health workers and care navigators to “bridge some of the social factors in rehabilitative care,” Steed said.

“At the end of the day it’s really taking that holistic approach … to create an integrated way to help our patients transition back to their lives,” Steed said.

The partnership will allow Schwab to benefit from Mary Free Bed’s longtime specialty in a “narrow niche of rehabilitation care,” Brasser said, like cancer rehab programs to help survivors “gain back their independence and function.”

Mary Free Bed also has advanced prosthetics programs that could be developed at Schwab through the collaboration.

Schwab has specialized rehab programs for things like strokes and brain injuries that work in synergy with Sinai’s trauma centers, Steed said. Hospital leaders are working with Mary Free Bed to identify additional specialized programs that Sinai previously was unable to provide.

“We can become stronger together,” Steed said. “We’re looking at this as a health equity challenge.”

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