Latest News from Westlake Hospital
PIPELINE HEALTH MOVES TO PROTECT PATIENT SAFETY TEMPORARILY SUSPENDS SERVICES AT WESTLAKE HOSPITAL
Temporary suspension of inpatient admissions, surgeries due to declining staff
APRIL 9, 2019—In an effort to ensure patient safety, Pipeline Health today announced a temporary service suspension at Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park due to concerns about its ability to continue maintaining a safe environment for patient care due primarily to declining staff rates.
In February, Pipeline filed a Certification of Exemption Application (COE) to discontinue operations at Westlake Hospital due to declining inpatient stays and losses of nearly $2 million a month.
The financial losses come after the state’s new Hospital Assessment Program that provides funding to some hospitals did not include Westlake and others in desperate need of funding. Both Illinois House Representatives Chris Welch (D) and Kathleen Willis (D) voted for the measure, costing Westlake $4 million dollars in annual state funding. Intensifying the facility’s severe funding gap, the Village Board of Melrose Park voted unanimously at a special hearing in mid-December 2018 to rescind their public funding support for a Westlake redevelopment agreement.
In the weeks after the COE filing, hospital staffing rates have continued to fall at a concerning rate, which has necessitated pulling staff from Pipeline-owned West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park and increased reliance on registry nurses affiliated with outside agencies to cover shifts at Westlake. Continued use of West Suburban staff at Westlake will compromise the availability and timeliness of care to patients at West Suburban Medical Center, making such utilization a long-term impossibility.
In anticipation of potential service discontinuation, Pipeline today also issued WARN Act notices to Westlake employees, notifying staff 60 days in advance of potential closure pursuant to federal and state law. The company’s temporary service suspension is in anticipation of operations disruptions due to these notice issuances coupled with the recently declining staffing rates.
“Our utmost priority is safety and quality of patient care,” said Jim Edwards, CEO of Pipeline Health. “With declining staffing rates and more attrition expected, a temporary suspension of services is necessary to assure safe and sufficient operations. This action is being taken after considering all alternatives and with the best interest of our patients in mind.”
Pipeline closed on the purchase of Westlake, West Suburban and Weiss Hospitals in January 2019, after operating losses had rapidly accelerated in late 2018 to $31 million for the year.
Operating losses continued to accelerate dramatically after the purchase. The main driver of these losses was at Westlake Hospital, which posted a net operating loss of $14 million in 2018. Such devastating losses are projected to continue to worsen over time due partially to falling patient demand. On average, Westlake Hospital is only 30% full, and inpatient visits in 2018 dropped to nearly 4,100, down from approximately 4,800 in the year prior.
These weakening trends reflect a larger regional challenge for health care providers. According to the Inventory of Health Care Facilities and Services and Need Determinations, the surrounding patient service area has 473 extra medical, surgical and pediatric beds. This—coupled with undercompensated or uncompensated care, Medicaid, Medicare and uninsured patients—creates an unsustainable financial strain for hospitals like Westlake.
The surrounding community, however, will continue to have access to care. Westlake is located within 3 miles of four major medical centers:
In addition, PCC Community Wellness Center, a Federally Qualified Health Care Center, will continue to provide patient care to residents in Melrose Park, including obstetrical and behavioral health services.
In addition to today’s actions, Pipeline continues to engage in discussions with leaders in the Illinois General Assembly to seek a long-term solution for the region’s health and hospital system.
Pipeline also recently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the Village of Melrose Park, citing the original claim lacks standing because only a competing health care facility that may be adversely impacted can seek review of the Review Board’s final decisions, according to state statute. The motion also notes that the plaintiffs failed to assert that Pipeline’s application for change of ownership was untrue. The Village failed to request a public hearing to discuss any concerns it had regarding new ownership. Moreover, the motion notes Pipeline’s original application for change of ownership makes no promise or commitment to keep Westlake open for any period of time. Further, it notes that Westlake’s untenable financial condition was not fully evident at the time the application for change of ownership was prepared. The complete impact of Westlake’s 2018 devastating net operating loss was not known until the year’s end and had not fully occurred in September 2018 when Pipeline submitted its application for change of ownership or even when that application was granted.