metrosouth

MetroSouth Medical Center (file photo)

The former site of MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island has been sold to a real estate development company that plans to continue using the property for health-care needs.

A local congressman and a state representative from Blue Island both wrote letters to Gov. J.B. Pritzker and said they want the facility to re-open to provide more beds during the coronavirus crisis, but whether that will happen remains unclear.

According to Blue Island officials, Quorum Health, a Tennessee-based company that operated MetroSouth, sold the property to Lockwood Development Partners, which has offices in Chicago.

Lockwood plans to use the main building for services for veterans, officials said, but no plans are in place for the rest of the campus.

The equipment in the emergency room will be transferred to Lockwood.

MetroSouth, 12935 S. Gregory St., closed at the end of September, with officials citing low usage and financial struggles.

Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas said in a statement that he hopes the property will be used for various health needs.

“Our entire community has felt the impact of the closure of MetroSouth Medical Center,” Vargas said. “I encourage Lockwood to present a plan that partners with local health-care providers to use part of the facility for much-needed emergency and urgent care. The residents of Blue Island need and deserve quality health care in our community.”

MetroSouth had 314 beds.

Blue Island officials announced the sale to Lockwood on March 20.

Two days earlier, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) announced he had written a letter requesting the hospital re-open “as soon as possible” to address a shortage of beds for patients battling covid-19, the novel coronavirus that has killed thousands of people around the world.

Rush said he is willing to do his part to help.

“Gov. Pritzker has shown true leadership during this pandemic, and I am hopeful he will continue to use his power as governor to do all that is necessary to protect the people of Illinois from this deadly disease,” Rush said. “I am committed to working with the governor to provide any federal assistance he may need to get MetroSouth back up and running, at least for the duration of the epidemic.”

State Rep. Bob Rita (D-28th), who lives in and serves Blue Island, reportedly said in his own letter that the coronavirus crisis could create “a need for hospital care unlike we have ever seen in the coming weeks and months.”

Lockwood officials did not return a message for comment.

Covid-19 has now arrived in Blue Island.

A member of the Blue Island Police Department tested positive for the virus, and Vargas temporarily shut down the department on March 22.

Rita said in a statement that Vargas made the decision unilaterally and didn’t follow proper protocol.

Vargas said in media reports that he gave the order “based on the recommendation that I got,” and on March 23, he and Rita said that officers had returned to their jobs as of 6 a.m.

In a news release, city officials said the department had been thoroughly cleaned, and personnel who were not in direct contact with the affected employee had returned to work.

City officials said they will meet daily to discuss the response to covid-19.

Rita said on social media that he will work with other elected officials to address concerns about the coronavirus.

“My office,” he said, “will continue to coordinate with the governor’s office, local leaders and first responders to keep our community safe during this challenging time.”

Update: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced March 23 that the city will partner with MetroSouth to reopen the facility on March 26. This will provide 200 rooms to help people fighting covid-19.

Congressman Bobby Rush applauded the move in a statement.

“I am beyond delighted to see that the new owners of MetroSouth Medical Center, Lockwood Development Partners, will reopen the healthcare facility in order to serve coronavirus patients who are fighting for their lives against this dreaded disease,” said Rep. Rush.  “As the number of coronavirus cases across my district and the entire state and nation continue to rise, it is imperative that our healthcare infrastructure is able to accommodate as many patients as possible, particularly low-income patients who may lack the necessary healthcare coverage.  The reopening of MetroSouth will help to achieve that goal."