A month and a half after Resilience Healthcare took over operations of West Suburban Medical Center and Weiss Memorial Hospital, CEO Manoj Prasad says they are committed to revitalizing the two hospitals.
“I’m of the belief that there should be no hospital in our country getting shut down because of financial reasons,” Prasad told Wednesday Journal.
West Suburban, considered a safety-net hospital, and Weiss, which is one step above safety-net status, have been beleaguered by financial problems in recent years, with the hospitals’ previous owner, Pipeline Health, filing for bankruptcy this past October.
The bankruptcy filing was among a series of delays that extended the transition of ownership from Pipeline, which announced it had found a buyer in Resilience last March. The transaction was valued at $92 million with a refund of $12 million going back into the hospitals.
“A lot of people were under the impression that in the bankruptcy, we got [the hospitals] for a song,” Prasad said.
Resilience paid the full $92 million, according to Prasad, acquiring all the hospitals’ real estate, including their offsite campuses, but also their debts — to the tune of roughly $81 million.
“It’s $81 million and counting,” said Prasad. “There’s still some debt being transferred.”
Prasad and his financial partner, Rathnakar R. Patlola, took on the burden of that debt and did so without a lender secured. They’re in the process of looking for lenders, and state funding will be critical in allowing the hospitals to continue caring for patients. While the debt is large, they don’t view the hospitals as a bad investment. They believe it would have been bad not to invest in them.
“What was the other option? These two would be shut down,” he said. “We don’t need more closed-down hospitals.”
Prasad is committed enough to the two hospitals that he and his family moved to River Forest from Michigan. When his daughter was in need of medical care, he took her to West Suburban’s River Forest campus, which he plans to make an “integral part” of the Resilience system.
“If I don’t have the confidence that my family can get good care here, I have no business asking others to come and trust their health care to us,” he said.
Currently, he splits his time between West Suburban in Oak Park and Weiss in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, serving as group CEO. He spends most of his days meeting with the hospitals’ caregivers to understand what can be done to make their work easier.
Prasad’s goal is uniting the hospitals into one group that operates out of two primary locations. West Sub’s former CEO, Barbara Martin, left the hospital the day Resilience took over, according to Prasad. Irene Dumanis remains CEO of Weiss but is now also the chief financial officer of both hospitals.
Before Prasad, West Suburban’s chief medical officers had never met their Weiss counterparts. Now the teams are working in concert with each other, eliminating the silos that once divided them.
“The collaboration is giving such beautiful results,” he said. “It’s very heartwarming.”
Resilience allows employees the opportunity to work at both hospitals, should they wish to, while choosing one to serve as home base. One West Suburban employee who lived near Weiss was able to switch over full-time to the Chicago hospital, drastically cutting down her commute to work.
When Resilience took over operations of West Suburban and Weiss on Dec. 2, Prasad hosted townhall meetings at both hospitals, hitting every shift to ensure that employees were given the chance to provide input and to hear directly from their new leader. In the days since, he said, everyone has come together to support one another.
It hasn’t been free of obstacles, however. For two full weeks, West Suburban was without a pharmacy license and could not buy drugs. The situation could have had fatal consequences had it not been for nearby hospitals sharing their supplies.
“I have to put on the record how gracious all the surrounding hospitals have been,” Prasad said, adding that he wants to continue working with them to prove the best possible care to the communities they serve. He has already proposed new joint programs and is discussing them with the leadership of other hospitals.
Prasad said he does not stress about the futures of Weiss and West Suburban because they are staffed by great people who share his desire to see the two hospitals succeed.
“These are going to be community hospitals that will provide care to the community as per their needs — personal care,” he said.
West Suburban has seen a revolving door of owners within the last decade. Prasad said he was told unnamed local leaders had a bet that Resilience wouldn’t last 15 days. That hasn’t deterred him.
“I have no intentions of going anywhere,” he said. “These two hospitals, they will flourish.”