MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island is planning to close by Sept. 30, according to a letter issued to employees this week.
In June, citing financial problems, hospital officials announced that they had filed an application for closure with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board (HFSRB) to close by the end of the year if they could not find a new operator, and in a letter dated Aug. 19, MetroSouth CEO John Walsh said the hospital had experienced staffing challenges since then, with about 10 percent of the staff already departing.
The HFSRB is set to review the hospital’s application on Sept. 17 at a meeting at Bolingbrook Golf Club, but Walsh said officials had to “look ahead.”
“Because of these realities, the hospital will begin planning for discontinuation of services by Sept. 30, 2019,” Walsh said. “Today, we are releasing notices to employees regarding when hospital positions will be terminated, providing you a timeframe for seeking other employment.”
Walsh said finding a new operator has been unsuccessful.
He said employees who remain through their termination dates will receive pay and benefits until Oct. 31.
He also said the hospital had to temporarily suspend its cardiac catheterization lab and might need to do the same for other services due to lack of staffing.
Hospital officials also issued a statement echoing much of what was said in the letter, saying they continue to search for a new operator.
“Representatives for the hospital have been diligent in their efforts to find a solution that would preserve at least a portion of the hospital’s current services,” they said. “Conversations with community stakeholders and outreach efforts are ongoing.
“However, at present we have no definitive agreement to purchase the hospital. We’ve had continued interest from a small number of parties but have yet to receive documentation of operational expertise or the financial resources necessary to continue MetroSouth as a full-service hospital.”
They said the hospital’s “operational and financial environment has become increasingly unstable.”
“Despite these challenges, we continue to be amazed at the dedication and professionalism shown by our staff and volunteers during this time,” officials said. “They remain focused on our patients, and we are eternally grateful.”
State Rep. Bob Rita, who lives in and serves Blue Island, is on the MetroSouth board and has repeatedly expressed his shock about the June announcement.
He pleaded for more time at an HFSRB public hearing in late July, and in a statement after the Aug. 19 letter was issued, he expressed his opinion.
“MetroSouth’s announcement that they will shut down hospital operations with barely a month’s notice is disappointing and unacceptable,” Rita said. “For months, we have asked for additional time and continued negotiations to reach a solution that protects patient safety while creating stability for our medical professionals and the doctors and nurses who serve our community every day.
“This 11th-hour decision to move up the hospital’s closing date and put south-suburban patients at risk is reckless and irresponsible. Their application for closure to the Health Facilities and Services Review Board is not even up for review until Sept. 17, and they’re already planning to close down two weeks later.
“I’m asking my community to join me in opposing this last-minute decision and urging the hospital executives to come to the table to find reasonable solutions that preserve access to our healthcare and protect our community’s most vulnerable.”