metrosouth medical center

MetroSouth Medical Center is officially closing.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board (HFSRB) approved the Blue Island hospital’s application to close on Oct. 22, and the hospital’s 114-year existence has ended.

The board unanimously approved the application, 5-0, after deferring the vote at the previous board meeting in September.

A message left with the HFSRB was not returned.

In a statement, officials from Quorum Health, the Tennessee-based company that owns MetroSouth, said they are pleased with the vote. They also said they plan to continue working to find a new occupant for the property.

“We appreciate the board’s diligence in considering our application and recognize the importance of the board’s role in this process,” they said. “We will now begin final wind-down processes. We remain committed to ongoing conversation with city leaders and area providers in hopes of finding a healthcare-related use for the facility. We extend our gratitude to the employees who have devoted themselves to caring for our patients and the city of Blue Island. This was not the outcome anyone wanted, but we know opportunities still exist to transform healthcare delivery in this community.”

Quorum and the city have discussed an agreement in which Quorum would pay Blue Island $2 million and the city would take over the property and seek a healthcare facility to occupy it; if no new occupant was found in six months and the city used its right to take all of the hospital’s land, Quorum would pay the city another $3 million for maintenance and security costs.

All of MetroSouth’s services have been closed since the beginning of October, as officials said staff had begun to leave.

Staff remaining through the end of September were given benefits through October.

The HFSRB said it is reviewing services being shut down before the application was approved, and fines could be issued.

Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas did not return a message seeking comment on the potential agreement, though his office said in a previous statement that the agreement “was negotiated in good faith by the city’s legal team, based upon their understanding of the mayor’s and City Council’s expressed priorities to develop a plan to address this very difficult situation created by the closing of the hospital.”

An alderman said he made a “backroom deal” with Quorum, which Vargas denied.

The September vote was deferred at a meeting in which the board also discussed a pending lawsuit against Quorum in which officials from People’s Choice Hospital, of Oak Brook, said they wanted to purchase the hospital but claimed Quorum officials changed the terms of the purchase and then backed out.

Quorum officials said they were concerned with pending litigation against People’s Choice for billing fraud and hospital mismanagement.

In a statement, People’s Choice President Dr. Seth Guterman said he is unhappy with the HFSRB vote.

“People’s Choice Hospital is disappointed in the review board’s ruling to proceed with closing MetroSouth despite pending litigation against its owners, Quorum Health,” Guterman said. “Today’s action leaves hundreds of thousands of local residents without access to local healthcare, something we had hoped to avoid by taking over full-service operations. We believe in the community-healthcare model and know it can work if managed correctly. Today’s decision is unfortunate for the community of Blue Island and its residents.”

Guterman was part of a group that purchased the hospital in 2008, when it was known as St. Francis Hospital and faced closure.

Community Health Systems, Quorum’s parent company before Quorum became independent in 2016, purchased the hospital in 2012.

In announcing the application to close in June, MetroSouth officials cited low usage and financial struggles.

HFSRB members are appointed by the governor.

For more information, visit hfsrb.gov.