Two interesting and interrelated stories in the Journal this week about Rush Oak Park Hospital, its growth plans and its limits on growth.

We report on the application now filed with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board by Rush Oak Park and the Rush mothership for an OK to build a new 61,000 square foot outpatient facility at North and Harlem – a portion of the site of the old Sears store.  

Approval is almost certain. What’s notable is the prominent emphasis in the application on the lead role the Oak Park-based Rush satellite will play in this new facility. Also that Rush directly acknowledges that its Oak Park campus is effectively landlocked and will not be able to accommodate the expansion in programs that it wants to undertake.

That is a fair statement and a positive acknowledgment by Rush Oak Park that its ability to stuff more health care services into an Oak Park campus that abuts a lovely residential neighborhood on two sides has reached a limit.

On June 5, Oak Park’s village board gave Rush Oak Park a narrow win in pushing back against an impressive effort by neighbors to actually change current zoning to limit future expansion at the Madison and Harlem campus. Three village trustees actually voted with the neighbors, which is more than notable and should be fair warning to Rush Oak Park that its free pass to acquire homes and build anew is likely over.

Also impressed that the village board unanimously approved a request that staff set up a study session on how neighbors and hospitals need to engage actively before a local medical center can enter a planned development process for expansion.

As we have said on this page for decades, as important as Rush Oak Park and West Suburban Hospital are to Oak Park’s health care and employment picture, the village government has rolled over to allow incursions into neighboring residential areas.

The combination of the village board signaling a more balanced approach to Rush’s growth and Rush acknowledging the limits of its growth on the Oak Park campus is all positive. 

Finally, why is Iris Sims still the chair of the Oak Park Plan Commission? She made another stunning appearance on June 5 before the village board as it considered the commission’s recommendation regarding Rush and its neighbors’ attempt to change zoning.

Neighbors are fully correct that Sims should always recuse herself from matters involving Rush as her husband is on the institution’s local board of directors. She never does. Beyond that she was openly hostile to neighbors in her comments to the village board.

It reached the point where Village President Vicki Scaman effectively cut her off. “I think we’re done here with your participation,” Scaman told Sims.

As we have said before, that viewpoint should be extended fully to her participation on the plan commission.

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