bob rita

State Rep. Bob Rita

Under legislation working its way through the Illinois General Assembly, MetroSouth Medical Center would be converted to a free-standing emergency center, and a new tenant would have access to millions in state funding.

The legislation, sponsored in part by state Rep. Bob Rita (D-28th), who lives and serves in Blue Island, was approved 74-35 by the House of Representatives on Oct. 30.

In a statement, Rita said he is “pushing ahead” with the legislation.

As part of a state program that helps hospitals transitioning into new facilities, a new healthcare provider at the hospital could utilize $7.8 million that was already allocated to MetroSouth.

“This is something that’s very important to my district,” Rita said before the House voted. “This is funding that could actually be used to open up this free-standing emergency room and provide some services that the community needs, versus leaving an empty structure and creating a healthcare desert for low-income and working families.”

The Illinois Senate will consider the bill on Nov. 12.

Other House sponsors include state Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th) and state Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-27th), who serve the local community.

Andy Manar (D-48th), whose district is in central Illinois, is the Senate sponsor.

MetroSouth, 12935 S. Gregory St., closed all its services at the start of October.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board (HFSRB) approved the hospital’s application to close on Oct. 22.

Quorum Health, of Tennessee, has owned MetroSouth since 2016. Its former parent company, Community Health Systems, bought MetroSouth in 2012.

Since hospital officials announced in June that they had filed an application to close, elected officials in Blue Island and surrounding communities have been vigilant in working to keep it open.

MetroSouth opened in 1905 and was known as St. Francis Hospital until 2008, when it was sold after nearly closing.

Officials cited low usage and financial shortfalls in announcing the application to close.

Area fire departments and ambulance services have said the closure could cost people their lives, as travel times to other hospitals would be longer than traveling to MetroSouth.

Officials said the hospital is the second-largest job provider in Blue Island.