Founded in 1914, West Suburban Hospital was for 82 years the model of a community-based non-profit hospital. It grew, it stayed up-to-date, it served its West Side and its Oak Park and River Forest community with respect and deep connection.
But beginning in 1996, as health care delivery in America began an upheaval that has not yet come close to stabilizing, West Sub has epitomized every twist and spin, every form of ownership imaginable.
It was sold to Loyola Hospital and suddenly became a Catholic hospital with attendant controversy over abortion and family planning. Three years later Loyola sort of coughed it back up to independent status, though there were immediate worries that the resources were too thin to remain independent.
Wasn’t long before the whirlwind intensified and, in rapid succession, West Sub was owned and then disowned by Resurrection Health Care, Vanguard and, most recently, Tenet, a Texas-based for-profit chain.
Almost from the time Tenet came to the Chicago market it seemed to be looking for an exit plan. Having acquired just four community hospitals, Tenet never achieved the level of market share necessary to be a player in this complex metropolis. When, a few months back, Tenet sold MacNeal Hospital, its Berwyn-based crown jewel, to Loyola, it was clear that West Sub, Westlake and Chicago-based Weiss were going to be off-loaded somehow, somewhere.
Last week came the intriguing play. West Sub and its sister hospitals were being sold to a partnership between a Chicago entity called TWG Partners and Pipeline Health, a national hospital operator.
TWG is notable because it is headed by Dr. Eric Whitaker, a Chicagoan with executive experience at the University of Chicago Medicine and a close friend of former President Barack Obama.
At least two members of West Sub’s local governing board, State Rep. LaShawn Ford and Chamber of Commerce leader Cathy Yen, are hopeful that Whitaker will bring Chicago-centric health care knowledge and a long-term commitment to independence and innovation rather than yet another consolidation move with a larger entity.
West Sub is critical to our community’s health care. It is an essential player across the Oak Park/West Side divide. It is a notable employer and property taxpayer.
All of us need to root for its new ownership to be its lasting ownership.