A nascent neighborhood organization hopes to defend neighbors’ wishes and concerns as West Suburban Medical Center eyes expanding its Emergency Department as part of a $73 million improvement plan.

“The purpose of forming [the East Central Neighborhood Association] is to provide a forum for residents interested in improving or maintaining the quality of life in the area and to address future development plans,” reads a statement apparently by association steering committee member Carol Studer.

Reached by phone, Studer declined to comment, citing a Wednesday Journal editorial about West Sub she felt was “tremendously biased.”

“There’s problems about the emergency room now that we’re concerned with, not to mention if they expand,” said fellow steering committee member Jim Slama. He said those problems include litter and parking around homes near the emergency room.

West Sub spokeswoman Molly Gaus urged neighbors with those concerns to call the hospital.

“Our goal is to be the premier healthcare provider in Oak Park, but we’re also here to be a good neighbor,” Gaus said. “I urge them to give us a call at their convenience. They don’t need to wait for a future community meeting to resolve those issues.”

Slama said he’s noticed many ambulances and police cars arriving at West Sub from Chicago. “I do know that quite a bit of their business is coming from Chicago.”

“That much is obvious,” said Andy Kaczkowski, another member of the neighbors’ association steering committee.

Neighbors argue that if a major part of the emergency department’s business is coming from Chicago, West Sub should look Chicago-ward for expansion.

Gaus did not know what portion of the hospital’s emergency room patients are from outside Oak Park.

Slama suggested West Sub consider a parking lot it currently owns across Austin Boulevard for expansion, and said neighbors would be highly critical of moving the ER to a site at 209 N. Humphrey Ave., now the home to a two-flat the hospital hopes to demolish citing dilapidation and safety concerns.

The hospital will appear before Oak Park’s Historic Preservation Commission at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to argue for a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) for the demolition. The certificate would be issued if the commission were to believe the building does not contribute to the historic character of the neighborhood, the Ridgeland-Oak Park Historic District.

Slama also suggested Resurrection Health Care, which owns and operates West Sub, consider serving West Side residents at other facilities in the network, or building a free-standing facility closer to where patients live.

But Gaus said an emergency room needed to be connected to the hospital, and that the expected demolition of the Humphrey two-flat did not presuppose moving the ER there.

Neighbors’ primary interest is making sure their concerns impact any West Sub construction projects.

“The hope would be [West Sub] would be best served by keeping us in the loop,” Kaczkowski said. Gaus said West Sub is exploring its options with village staff, and will present options to neighbors as soon as they are developed.

The East Central Neighborhood Association, which members described as being still in its early development, will look for causes beyond the West Sub situation.

“This isn’t the only issue our community faces,” Slama said, adding there are redevelopment opportunities near the intersections of Austin Boulevard and Lake Street and at Austin and Chicago Avenue that neighbors would like to help along.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

West Sub valets cut for savings

West Suburban Medical Center’s decision to discontinue its automobile valet service has caused at least one Oak Park resident to speak out against the move.

“I’m amazed they’re getting away with it,” said Beatrice Strom, a resident of the 100 block of North Kenilworth Avenue.

In a letter to Strom, West Sub CEO and Resurrection vice president Jay Kreuzer explains that the hospital jettisoned the service to save money. “Options of reducing versus eliminating the service or increasing the price were considered but found to be insufficient,” the letter reads in part.

West Sub spokeswoman Molly Gaus said the hospital added 39 visitor spaces and four visitor handicap spaces in anticipation of canceling the valet service. A new entrance was created on the north end of the west parking lot to improve access.

She did not know the cost of the contracted valet service program the hospital used to offer.

Strom, who is disabled, said the spaces don’t replace the valet service.

“They’re still very far,” she said. “You still have to walk.

“I would pay $10 for valet parking. I’m glad to do it,” Strom said.

Drivers dropping patients off at the Emergency Department can leave their cars out front while they help someone inside, Gaus said. Security people can assist people inside, and will park cars in some instances, she said.

?#34;Drew Carter

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