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Appeals court gives green light for Franciscan Health to close ER in Hammond, Indiana

Indiana appeals court allows Franciscan Health Hammond to close
Indiana appeals court allows Franciscan Health Hammond to close 00:23

HAMMOND, Ind. (CBS) -- The Indiana Court of Appeals on Friday overturned a lower court order and gave the green light for the hospital to close.

The hospital had planned to close at the end of the year Saturday and will now do so. In a statement, the hospital said:

"Franciscan Alliance is grateful for the Court of Appeals order. As such, Franciscan will proceed with ceasing operations and closing the emergency department as of Dec. 31, 2022. As most ambulances have already stopped bringing patients to Franciscan Health Hammond, we do not expect that closing the Emergency Department will cause disruption in emergency medical care for residents. As we pointed out to the Court of Appeals, many Hammond neighborhoods are closer to other hospitals within the region than they were to Franciscan Health Hammond.

"We believe this decision prioritizes patient safety, which has been our primary concern throughout the legal proceedings."

Franciscan Health had announced in November that it planned to end in-patient services and its emergency department, effective Saturday, Dec. 31.

The City of Hammond filed a lawsuit, pointing out that the hospital had said last year that it planned to downsize – but keep its emergency department open. The hospital at the time also said it planned to maintain a limited number of hospital beds for short stays, as well as imaging and lab services wound care, dialysis, prenatal care, and primary care.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said because Franciscan Health did not plan to close its emergency department, the city did not take action to find alternative options for emergency services, court documents said.

But 18 months later – with no communication in the intervening period – the hospital said it was closing its emergency department after all, court documents said. The mayor called this an "absolute betrayal," and said it would damage health care coverage in Northwest Indiana and nearby parts of Illinois.

Lake County, Indiana Superior Court Judge Bruce Parent and issued an injunction a week ago forbidding the hospital from closing. On Wednesday, the hospital asked the court to reconsider an earlier ruling that they stay open another nine months.

On Thursday, Judge Parent rejected the hospital's motion for a stay on the injunction – insisting that it cannot operate safely and must close. The judge called the hospital's claim "untestable, largely unprovable, and certainly not proven here."

The appeals court ruling overturned that decision.

Franciscan has already begun work to demolish the hospital.

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