West Suburban Hospital Medical Center CEO Jay Kreuzer plans to “inform our neighbors regarding our ongoing response to the growing needs of the communities we serve,” according to a letter sent to hospital neighbors in early September.

The meeting, which will be held next Tuesday, Sept. 20, 6:30 p.m. in West Sub’s Lecture Hall, will discuss the hospital’s desire to build a new Emergency Department to replace the current ER at Ontario and Austin.

According to West Sub spokesperson Molly Gaus, the current ER was built to serve 40,000 patients a year. They are currently serving 50,000, she said. The aging baby boomer population, she said, just in the 60302 zip code where West Sub is located, is projected to increase 22 percent in the future. Something has to be done to handle the growing number of patients.

Kreuzer, she said, will share a site map of the proposed new location for the Emergency Department, but she emphasized this is “a first step; nothing is set in stone.”

Also present at the meeting will be Dr. Roy Horras, longtime head of West Sub’s Emergency Department. They expect to listen to neighbors’ concerns in addition to making their presentation, Gaus said.

Jim Slama, one of the organizers of the newly formed East Central Oak Park Neighborhood Association, hopes it’s true that West Sub plans to listen. ECOPNA is concerned about quality of life and development issues in the area bordered by Chicago Avenue, Lake Street and Austin Boulevard and running several blocks to the west.

What they’re not happy about, he said, is the prospect of “a large commercial structure being built on the west side of Humphrey, which is zoned residential and in a historic district.” The group believes that is where the medical center plans to build its new ER. That property has long been owned by the hospital but has not been developed.

“Beyond that,” he said about the upcoming meeting, “we’ll be there to listen and to talk.” He noted that a few weeks ago, over 100 people in neighboring Austin met to voice their concerns over West Suburban’s plans and service, so it’s not just Oak Park neighbors who have concerns.

ECOPNA wonders why the hospital can’t build a stand-alone ER on the Chicago side of Austin Boulevard.

“This is not just an Oak Park issue,” Slama said. “West Sub has so many users from Chicago who are also stakeholders.”

He added that many large corporations hold meetings like this and pretend to listen even though they’ve already made up their minds about what they’re planning to do. If that happens, he said, “West Sub will have a huge fight on their hands. We know how to organize. That won’t be good for anybody.”

But for now, Slama is giving them the benefit of the doubt and hoping West Sub is sincere about listening. “We want a good process,” he said. “If the hospital is open to these kinds of conversations, I’m excited. Who knows what might evolve?”

Join the discussion on social media!