Lawmaker urges governor to reopen nearby hospital

Rep. Welch, hospital association recommend governor reopen Westlake

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

An area lawmaker and various hospital administrators across the state are urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker to reopen shuttered hospitals, including Westlake Hospital, 1225 W. Lake St. in Melrose Park, in order to shore up resources in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

According to a new analysis by the Harvard Global Health Institute, many parts of the country will not have enough hospital beds if the novel coronavirus spreads beyond the capacity of medical providers to handle the virus.

"In 40 percent of markets around the country, hospitals would not be able to make enough room for all the patients who became ill with Covid-19, even if they could empty their beds of other patients," according to a New York Times report. "That statistic assumes that 40 percent of adults become infected with the virus over 12 months, a scenario described as 'moderate' by the team behind the calculations."

According to an interactive map available at ProPublica and the New York Times, if 40 percent of adults are infected with the virus over 12 months, the west suburban region (represented by Melrose Park) "would need to empty or add the equivalent of 97% of its occupied beds."

Yesterday, "state officials also reported 134 new cases, bringing the statewide total to 422, with at least four deaths," according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.

On Thursday, Pritzker called up about 60 members of the Illinois National Guard to help provide medical expertise and to perform various tasks, such as handing out food to those in need, across the state.

In a statement released on March 20, state Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (7th), whose district includes parts of River Forest, said that the guardsmen should also help reopen the shuttered Westlake hospital, which closed last year. The hospital's for-profit parent company, California-based Pipeline Health, announced its intention to close the institution in early 2019, just weeks after finalizing the purchase of Westlake and two other hospitals, including West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park.

"What we have learned about the COVID-19 pandemic is that it will continue to put a major strain on our health care facilities and their ability to properly treat all patients that need care," Welch said. "In order to protect the health and safety of our communities, we have to expand access to health care resources for coronavirus patients and all other individuals seeking medical attention. That is why I am calling on Gov. Pritzker to reopen Westlake Hospital to help provide additional medical resources and services to our neighbors who need it most."

According to a Tribune report, a spokesperson for the Illinois Health and Hospitals Association also recommended that Pritzker consider reopening Westlake, along with two other hospitals across the state that closed within the last two years: Metro South Medical Center in Blue Island and Vibra Hospital in Springfield.

"Whether expanded facilities come from reopened hospitals, converted vacant space or temporary construction carried out by the National Guard It's not going to be instantaneous. You still to have to get equipment there, and that takes time," Chun told Tribune reporters.

"I applaud Gov. Pritzker for the bold action he has taken so far to protect the public health of our state, including enlisting the help of the Illinois National Guard," Welch said on Friday. "In his daily news briefing yesterday, Gov. Pritzker mentioned that the National Guard's work could potentially include reopening previously closed hospitals. I strongly encourage the governor to explore this option and specifically look toward to reopening Westlake Hospital during this challenging time."


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Tommy McCoy  

Posted: March 20th, 2020 8:30 PM

This is excellent reporting and something that I missed thinking about available spaces. This closed hospital has to come back on line to cover the area population. There is also parking lots that can be made into mobile hospitals if more space is needed. Most of all, medical staff needs to know when to expect safety equipment such as masks and medical equipment. The daily press reports are still not providing any information that is tangible. This is not the time we need a business person negotiating who will make products. We need a leader to move full speed ahead and have production companies tested for the products they are developing

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