Mercy Hospital Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy | Chicago News

Chicago’s oldest hospital is set to close this spring, even though the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board last month rejected the Mercy Hospital and Medical Center’s request for approval. , owned by Trinity Health, to shut down amid a pandemic that disproportionately impacts black patients the hospital primarily serves.

Mercy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday, saying “the quality of care at Mercy is a growing concern as doctors and other colleagues have left Mercy and operating losses have accelerated to $ 7 million per month.” .

The action is not surprising to Northwestern University professor Sally Nuamah, who says it fits a pattern of actions taken by healthcare facilities after they decide to shut down.

“We know from research that once a hospital or welfare institution is threatened with closure, often those behind that closure start to divest immediately, so bankruptcy is exactly what we expected. of Trinity, ”Nuamah said. “They make sure there is virtually nothing left to save.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Mercy Hospital said: it is losing staff, incurring increasing financial losses and challenging the hospital’s ability to maintain a safe care environment.

Nuamah said it was intentional: Mercy divests in staff and improvements, causing patients not to trust her care, or even to the point that there aren’t enough nurses. and doctors so that ambulances cannot take patients to his emergency room. department, which in turn leads to greater financial losses.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Mercy said, “Mercy has been committed for over 100 years to providing care to patients in need, especially those who cannot access care elsewhere. We recognize the community’s desire for Mercy to remain open, but Mercy has provided as much care as possible while suffering losses that no entity can afford on their own. The system of care for the underserved on the south side of Chicago is seriously failing, and it is the system that needs to be fixed so that patients can access the care they deserve.

Bankruptcy could be a legal end to securing the otherwise necessary approval of the state council responsible for regulating healthcare facility expansions and closures, although Mercy has another chance to appear before regulators on March 16.

“We are extremely disappointed that Mercy has chosen this path, instead of working with the state and other healthcare partners willing to transform the hospital and maintain essential services to this community. We just don’t think they’ve done all they can to work toward a different solution, ”said Theresa Eagleson, Director of Illinois Health and Family Services.

Journey for Justice Alliance director Jitu Brown, who is also a member of the Chicago Health Equity Coalition, has been fighting since the summer to save Mercy – the Bronzeville hospital where he was born.

Already, a path that could have saved Mercy, to some extent, died in May when the heads of four South Side hospitals – Advocate, Trinity, St. Bernard’s, and Mercy – announced that a merger deal was canceled after. that lawmakers have failed to achieve a hoped-for result. -for the injection of billions of dollars of state funding.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board also rejected a request by Mercy this winter to close a hospital and instead open a diagnostic center. Mercy executives said the change would be transformative for the community, while critics called the plan a “sham” that would leave South Side residents without adequate health care options.

Brown wants Governor JB Pritzker to actively step in, to help find a buyer to take over Mercy, and “use his power as Illinois general manager to bring Trinity Health Systems to the table with the community and to take the sale. of Mercy so that one of the many suitors who said they were ready to buy the hospital and keep it as a full-service hospital.

4th district Ald. Sophia King also wants another healthcare facility to step in and take over Mercy.

“They really created their own financial problems and really thumbed their noses at all of us who fought so hard to make sure there is comprehensive health care in South Chicago,” King said. . “We’re trying to figure out who might take over because you can’t trust their leadership right now. And so we’re not calling on Trinity to continue running Mercy. We just want to make sure that Mercy continues to operate under different leadership so that our community can receive the comprehensive care it deserves. “

King also said she wanted Mercy to be held accountable and to suffer repercussions.

This is one of the actions requested by officials and activists.

State Representative Lamont Robinson, D-Chicago, calls for a “moratorium on hospital closures in this state, especially in African-American and black and brown communities as well as in poor communities across the country. ‘State, especially now that we are dealing with COVID’.

He also wants to strengthen state law that regulates healthcare facility closures, to fill loopholes like the ones he fears Mercy is using.

“We’re looking at all the different ways of doing it. I will tell you that the Attorney General has also been fired on this issue, so he helps us legally in determining what can be done, ”Robinson said. “We’re talking about Mercy today, but it could be other safety net hospitals next week. And so we (have) a big problem with the quality of healthcare and the way we resource our safety nets across the state, and so we need to be able to fix that. “

It’s an idea Brown also said Illinois must pursue.

Safety-net hospitals like Mercy largely care for uninsured or underinsured patients, who depend on Medicaid, the government-backed health insurance for low-income people, and Medicare, which covers old people.

State health officials have previously denounced the idea that reimbursement rates do not cover services, but the increase in what the state pays when Medicaid patients receive care is on the cards. brown day.

“The state legislature needs to reform the way our safety net hospitals are funded because thanks to Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, which only provide a fraction of the true cost of the service, this is really sabotage,” Brown said. “It’s the iniquity of manufacturing. And so we need people who claim to be leaders to really lead right now. Because the communities where people are dying from the coronavirus shouldn’t be the communities where hospital services are cut. “

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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