The two local hospitals have made news these past two weeks.
The news out of Rush Oak Park, which is welcoming a new president, is encouraging to us. We’ve lauded this satellite of the Rush Health System for its steady, determined comeback over two decades. Today it is the preeminent community hospital for these two villages and beyond.
Our criticism has been harsh, though, of the institution’s arrogance in dealing with its immediate residential neighbors through its multiple and continuing incursions into what is fundamentally a neighborhood.
So, to hear Dino Rumoro, the new president and a veteran of Big Rush downtown, tell our Stacey Sheridan that working to heal the frayed relations with neighbors is a priority is excellent and overdue news.
“There should be open discussions about how we can find a way to coexist,” Rumoro said last week. “If there’s any gaps in that, I’d like to take care of that.”
He is planning a gathering with neighbors before the summer is out.
Rumoro also said that there actually is not a master plan for the campus. But he can assure neighbors that beyond a very large parking garage already approved for construction and now, with demolition of several hospital owned homes complete, the addition of an 80-car surface parking lot on Maple, that the immediate plans for investment will all involve remaking existing spaces within the facility.
A vital hospital in a wildly shifting health care environment is going to need to invest and change. We’ve always agreed with that. And it is a position we know many hospital neighbors accept.
But they want to be heard, they want to be respected. Rumoro is making that promise. We’ll do out part to hold Rush Oak Park to account.
We’d also expect Oak Park’s village government to take its thumb off the pro-Rush scale and give neighbors more consideration.
Which, oddly, brings us to West Suburban Hospital Medical Center. The new chair of this California-owned hospital’s local board is none other than Anan Abu-Taleb, until two months ago Oak Park’s village president and a consistent believer that both local hospitals topped Oak Park’s list of vital institutions. Abu-Taleb pointed to the jobs created, to the care provided and to the immense physical plants each hospital fronted.
We reached Abu-Taleb the night before West Sub was planning to land a PR campaign around the theme “Save West Sub.” The website was live, the ads were placed and the “we’re on the brink” messaging was ready to go. A stunned Abu-Taleb seemingly placed calls to California headquarters of Pipeline Health and the messaging changed suddenly.
We could laud Abu-Taleb for his influence. Or we could go with our original take, which is don’t trust anything that Pipeline says.
Its new president spent a long interview with our Michael Romain threading the needle between “we’re making progress getting additional funds from the state” and “it is still a crisis for this safety net hospital.”
Remember, Pipeline bought three Chicago area hospitals two years ago. One, Westlake Hospital, got ditched by Pipeline almost before the contract was signed. Now, we’re told West Sub and Chicago’s Weiss are on the bubble. A far cry from “we love community hospitals and can’t wait to invest in them.”
Abu-Taleb is right. Both these hospitals are vital to Oak Park. West Sub is also critical to the West Side. The challenges of the physical campus at Rush Oak Park can be addressed with honest talk among sincere people. There’s going to need to be give on both sides.
West Sub, which has been spinning through ownership changes at an absurd rate over 25 years, is still a basket case. Pipeline’s first order of business is rebuilding trust that it actually intends to operate West Sub as a community hospital. The topsy-turvy, on the brink, slightly back from the brink nonsense of two weeks ago does nothing to create trust.