Chicago leaders ask state to purchase Mercy Hospital

Chicago Alderman Sophia King has joined other Chicago leaders to call for the state of Illinois to purchase Mercy Hospital, the oldest hospital in the city.

The hospital, which serves a primarily Black community, has been the center of controversy in recent months. It is currently owned by Trinity Health, who attempted to schedule its closure in December only to be refuted by a regulatory board. Trinity Health filed the hospital for bankruptcy last month and set a closure date on May 31.

Insight Chicago, a part of the Michigan based company Insight, came to a non-binding agreement to purchase the hospital from Trinity for $1 at the start of the month. The move is pending regulatory approval.

King hopes that if the state purchases the hospital that it will be protected and remain a full service hospital. She is joined by Sen. Mattie Hunter, Rep. Lamont Robinson and Rep. Theresa Mah in her effort.

 

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Experts fear that if the hospital closes, an area in south Chicago will be left without a local hospital or emergency room. A study published by JAMA Network Open found that not having a local hospital or emergency room leads to worse health outcomes due to longer travel times to receive medical treatment. Research by the American Medical Association finds that 25% of Black and Hispanic Americans live in a “medical desert”, an area without nearby access to medical care.

Ann Spillane, general counsel to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, published a letter to legislators who were calling for the state to buy the hospital. She said that the state has no legal basis to buy the hospital if the sale to Insight is approved. She also said that the state does not have the capacity to manage the hospital:

“Ultimately, the bankruptcy petition changes the landscape of what can be done at this stage. Unless the HFSRB approves the Application and Mercy Hospital and Mercy Health dismiss their bankruptcy petition, the next steps for the hospital will be decided by the bankruptcy court. In practical terms, that means that the State does not have the ability to take over the hospital unless the bankruptcy court decides that is the best option.

Even if the bankruptcy court would allow the transfer to the State, the State likely does not have the capacity to take over the complete management and operations of the hospital while a search continues for additional prospective purchasers. Additionally, by taking ownership of Mercy Hospital, the State would also take on considerable costs, as well as significant potential liability and risk.”