Support grows for law change allowing standalone ER at shuttered Blue Island hospital

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Legislation could make it possible for a new operator to run an emergency department at the shuttered MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island. (MetroSouth Medical Center photo)

Legislation could make it possible for a new operator to run an emergency department at the shuttered MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island. (MetroSouth Medical Center photo) (MetroSouth Medical Center / CTMG / Handout)

An Illinois House panel has given a boost to a possible reuse of the shuttered MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island as a freestanding emergency room.

A committee vote Tuesday advances legislation that would allow part of the hospital to operate as an emergency department, with the full House expected to vote Wednesday, according to state Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island.

The bill, amended this week by Rita to include the MetroSouth provision, would also need approval from the Senate.

While the hospital suspended operations toward the end of last month, the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board formally approved at its Oct. 22 meeting the request by MetroSouth and its owner, Quorum Health, to close the facility, which has been a fixture in downtown Blue Island for more than a century.

Area officials had hoped that, should the hospital close, it might be possible to keep the emergency department open, which annually cared for some 47,000 people.

Fire departments and other emergency services providers that relied on MetroSouth are now directing ambulances to other local hospitals, including Little Company of Mary in Evergreen Park and Ingalls Memorial in Harvey.

Rita said state law currently doesn’t allow for standalone emergency departments, and the amended version of the bill is narrowly drafted to apply to just MetroSouth.

“This (legislation) gives us a different option we didn’t have before,” Rita said following the vote by the House Appropriations-Human Services Committee.

The legislation, he said, would also provide state funding of about $8 million annually through fiscal year 2022 to operate the emergency department.

Rita said he felt confident the full House would approve the measure.

“It’s getting a lot of good support in the House by Democrats and Republicans,” he said.

Still, it remains to be seen whether a hospital operator would step forward to take over operation of the hospital’s emergency department.

Quorum has said it is willing to turn over the hospital property and assets to Blue Island, and provide $2 million to maintain the facility while the city looks for a new hospital operator.

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October 29, 2019 at 07:18PM

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