When a book is written on the travails of hospitals and health care in this generation, a chapter could be devoted to our own West Suburban Hospital. It’s a textbook case on how a small, independent community hospital is buffeted by rising costs, massive consolidation, and extreme uncertainty over health care’s future.

For the third time in 13 years, West Sub is about to be sold to a new owner. After falling twice into the arms of Catholic hospitals, West Sub’s next act will be as part of a for-profit hospital system called Vanguard.

All of this change makes clear the challenge of running a community hospital – particularly one that straddles a suburban and urban line. So we’re pleased that Vanguard sees benefit in clustering West Sub with MacNeal in Berwyn, as well as with Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park. West Sub needs further investment and the for-profit Vanguard may offer the best chance of that. But West Sub also has a critical role to play on the West Side: continued commitment to charity care. Vanguard will need to make that commitment genuinely clear.

As Resurrection Health System prepares to depart to focus on its own critical financial issues, we offer thanks for the $81 million it invested in Oak Park, specifically for the new ER. We welcome Vanguard. We welcome the property taxes they will now pay in Oak Park. And we challenge them to keep West Sub the vital community leader it has long been.

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