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State Board Rejects Mercy Hospital's Closure Plan

CHICAGO (CBS/AP) -- An Illinois state board unanimously rejected a plan to close Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in Bronzeville, following months of pleas from the community to keep the hospital open.

Trinity Health wants to close Mercy Hospital, saying the site is losing money as well as patients. It has proposed to open an outpatient clinic about two miles away.

"Failure to acknowledge the realities of today will mean that the residents of the South Side of Chicago will continue to suffer gross health care inequities," said John Capasso, a Trinity Health executive vice president.

But the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted 6-0 on Tuesday to reject the plan. Trinity Health said it will return to the board in 2021.

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Critics of the plan to close Mercy have said if it shuts down, the nearest hospital for Bronzeville residents would be three miles away, creating a so-called "health care desert" in the area.

After the board's vote, Gov. JB Pritzker said that he has been working to try to keep the hospital open, possibly by finding a buyer for Mercy.

"It's particularly important that we stand up for equity, and that's why I've spoken with the owners of Mercy Hospital, Trinity, and with a number of potential buyers to try to push things along to make sure that something can happen here that will save the hospital, and I'm ready to go to work to do whatever that will take,"

The governor also noted that earlier this year state lawmakers failed to approve state funding for a $1 billion plan to consolidate Mercy with three other South Side hospitals. He said the Illinois General Assembly should step up and act to help save Mercy when lawmakers reconvene in January.

Mercy announced its plans to close in July after the planned merger with St. Bernard Hospital, South Shore Hospital, and Advocate Trinity Hospital fell through.

Betty Chang, a first-year medical student, said Blacks and Latino would be adversely affected if Mercy closes.

"These communities need your help, and they deserve to survive," Chang said at the meeting.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn said it was "preposterous" to propose closing a hospital during a pandemic.

"This is corporate medicine at its worst," Quinn said.

Mercy's roots go back to 1852 when the Sisters of Mercy converted an old rooming house into a hospital. The hospital has been at its current location since 1968.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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