Judge temporarily blocks closure of suburban hospital

A suburban hospital remains on life support after a judge temporarily blocked the closure of the facility. But that does not mean the fight is over.

The private company that bought Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park earlier this year shocked the community Tuesday, announcing that it would be suspending service because of what it called “concerns” about patient safety.

The village of Melrose Park wasted no time in sending a team of lawyers downtown to convince a judge to stop the closure.

“They took the word ‘community’ out of ‘Community Hospital!’ That’s what they did!” said Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico.

Mayor Serpico is accusing the hospital’s new owners – Pipeline Health – of putting profits ahead of patients.

Pipeline Health called the hospital understaffed and unsafe in announcing Tuesday morning it wouldn’t be accepting any new in-patients, and would no longer be performing surgeries.

“I’ve had family members born here. I’ve had family members die here. I’ve had family members whose lives have been saved here. And what it comes down to is it fills a need,” Serpico said.

The mayor sent a team of lawyers to file an emergency injunction to stop the surprise closure. After three hours of arguments in circuit court, a judge sided with the village, granting a temporary restraining order that keeps Westlake Hospital open at current staffing levels.

“We're thrilled with the order. My heart goes out to all the docs and nurse and staff that have been dealing with this since Pipeline took over,” said village attorney Ari Scharg.

The doctors and nurses that FOX 32 spoke with are relieved, and cautiously optimistic.

“We feel that this was justice…That we were being manipulated into being seen as an unsafe facility…We are perfectly safe and I'm very, very, very relieved that we're open,” said Dr. Kathleen Ward. “And now we have a chance to prove our worth.”

Pipeline Health says the hospital is losing $2 million per month and is on average only 30 percent full.

The temporary restraining order granted by the judge is in effect until the end of this month, when a state review board will make a permanent decision on the future of the hospital.