Oak Park’s 103-year-old West Suburban Medical Center could be on the market again, with the news that its owner, Tenet Healthcare, is selling its Berwyn-based MacNeal Hospital to Loyola Medicine.
The sale also includes Tenet’s physician practices; the Chicago Health System, an association of nearly 1,000 physicians in independent practice; and CHS’s accountable care organization, according to Tenet’s Oct. 11 announcement.
The large Texas-based healthcare services company gave no indication, however, what it has planned for its other Chicago area holdings: West Suburban; Westlake Hospital and Weiss Memorial Hospital on the city’s North Side.
Tenet purchased West Suburban from Vanguard Health Systems in October 2013, along with MacNeal and its other suburban hospitals. It was the fourth time the Oak Park hospital, 3 Erie St., has been sold in its century of service.
For its first 82 years, West Sub was an independent non-profit hospital. It first changed hands in 1996 when it was purchased by Maywood-based Loyola University Medical Center. West Sub returned to independent status from 1999 to 2004 when it was sold to Resurrection Health Care. Resurrection sold West Suburban to Nashville-based Vanguard in 2010. Vanguard sold to Tenet in 2013.
A Tenet representative could not be reached for comment about a possible sale of West Suburban.
Joe Ottolino, West Suburban CEO, acknowledged that a potential sale is “the million-dollar question,” but he declined to say whether the hospital is currently on the market, but he did acknowledge that – unlike some of Tenet’s other Chicago area holdings – West Suburban is profitable.
“They were independent, they were with Loyola, they were with Resurrection, they were with Vanguard, and now we’re with Tenet. We’re still going to serve our Oak Park-River Forest-Austin community like we’ve always done with high quality and safety,” he said.
Ottolino, a former vice president at MacNeal, assumed the position of CEO at West Suburban in 2016, following the departure of Patrick Maloney.
Ottolino touted the hospital’s successes, such as the recent “A” rating for patient safety it received from the nonprofit Leapfrog Group, which surveys hospitals for performance in safety, maternity care and other categories.
West Suburban is one of 59 hospitals, out of 2,500 nationwide, to earn the rating. Stacia Thompson, West Suburban’s marketing and PR director, said the hospital has received the “A” rating from Leapfrog every year since 2012, when the ratings system first started.
Ottolino described West Suburban as a dynamic facility that serves patients from both the affluent Oak Park and River Forest communities as well as the economically depressed Chicago neighborhood of Austin.
In addition to having a cutting-edge birthing center – West Suburban is one of the few hospitals in the area that perform water births, for example – it also is one of the top medical facilities in the Chicago area to treat gunshot wound victims.
“Even though we’re not a trauma center, we get a lot of gunshot (victims) from the surrounding area,” Ottolino said, noting that the hospital was featured in a Crain’s Chicago Business story in January, which identifies West Suburban as being the third largest community hospital in the Chicago-area that treats gunshot wound victims without trauma center designation.
“Ambulances are not bringing those patients here. Its family members or friends are just dropping them off at the emergency department and taking off,” Ottolino said.
The hospital sees “a lot of heroin overdoses” also, said Ottolino.
West Suburban treated about a dozen overdoses in one weekend within the last couple of months, Ottolino said.
The hospital is a diverse training facility for students because of the range of patients it treats, said Ottolino, who noted that West Suburban has the second oldest residency program in the state with a pass rate of 100 percent five years running.
“Part of the (interest from students) is where we are located,” Ottolino said. “They get to see both types of communities.”
The hospital also exposes residents to hospital policy at the federal level, according to Thompson.
“Dr. Scott Yen heads up the residents and took a couple of the residents to Washington, D.C. to lobby on behalf of the patients who are underserved and that really rely on what was set forth in the Obama Administration, so the hospital gets involved, as much as we can, in policy,” Thompson said. “These are the people seeing, firsthand, the people who need healthcare and can’t have it or are suffering from chronic illnesses or are susceptible to addictions.”
Both Ottolino and Thompson emphasized the importance of West Suburban’s outreach efforts to underserved communities in the area, highlighting its partnership with the West Cook YMCA to offer fitness classes at the hospital and its Food for Medicine program, which works with patients suffering from diabetes and other diet-related illnesses.
Jackie Dostal, director of performance improvement at West Suburban, said the hospital has active outreach programs, offering free kidney and diabetes screenings in the Austin neighborhood, among other services.
“We offer a lot of resources to the community that are free,” Dostal said. “That’s really unusual for a community hospital. That’s usually, unfortunately, the first thing that gets cut in budgets, and we’re unique in that we have a really robust community outreach program.”
Ottolino said the hospital’s recent effort to better connect with the communities it serves is part of West Suburban’s mission.
“It’s really the right thing to do,” he said. “We all got into healthcare for a reason.”