In granting West Suburban Hospital permission to demolish its decrepit graystone last week, the Oak Park village board made the right call. The board meets again this week to consider approval of zoning changes necessary to allow a new emergency department to be constructed. It is clear the board intends to add certain conditions to those OKs, and that’s fine with us, if the board makes the right choices.

The West Sub ER debate has become something of a magnet for discord, a hub of discontent of the sort that Oak Park sometimes feeds off of and perversely relishes. Here we’ve got historic preservation, the bumping together of a large institution with residential neighbors, a determined unionization effort, ongoing and massive changes in health care, a village election and, playing the role of the bogeyman, big old Resurrection Health Care.

So let’s do some sorting.

West Sub is, as rightly noted by board members last week, an anchor of the east side and the village’s largest employer. It was also no longer viable economically as an independent hospital. After a failed marriage with Loyola University Health System, West Sub was acquired by Resurrection. It is imperfect. It is different. But it is not bad or evil as some would try to convince us. And Resurrection is, after all, the source of the $23 million to build the needed ER.

The unionization push goes beyond West Sub and includes all of Resurrection. We don’t have an opinion as to whether West Sub’s staff chooses to unionize. We are clear, though, that it is not a zoning issue. Further, suggestions the village should mandate charity care levels at West Sub are absurd. This is a federal and state issue about to be vastly complicated by Todd Stroger’s ham-handed efforts to cut county health spending. Stay out of it.

Hospitals surrounded by residential neighborhoods always have issues when they build. We believe that compared to its own expansion debacle 13 years ago, and Rush Oak Park Hospital’s year-long fight with incensed neighbors a half-dozen years ago, that West Sub has done better this time around in meeting with neighbors and addressing vexing concerns.

That said, a village-imposed and -facilitated communication program starting now and continuing at least through the ER’s construction is a wise mandate from the board. The hospital ought also to be ashamed of itself for the deteriorated condition of the single-family home it owns and lets sit empty at Humphrey and Superior. Requiring the hospital to renovate and then lease that home is an essential requirement of zoning changes. That the hospital has to be forced into this act of good neighborliness is troubling.

Finally, we have Trustee Bob Milstein, a candidate for re-election, pouring gasoline on the whole brew. Typical.


Standardized insanity

Word is sifting down from the highest levels of Illinois’ mismanaged education apparatus to expect ISAT test results any month now. No later than the end of February! That would be 11 months after the statewide standardized tests were administered to millions of squirming children with No. 2 pencils at the ready. And it would be one month before we put our kids through the same ordeal again.

All this in the name of educational accountability and strict performance standards.

The insane point of “teaching to the test” is that you take the test, discover the weak spots, and teach better to the test next year. But if the results are never released it just points out what a charade all this is.

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