SPRINGFIELD IL (STL.News) Building on efforts to ensure equitable access to healthcare, Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation that provides a path to reopen the Westlake Hospital in Cook County. Senate Bill 168 will expand medical resources and services in the western suburbs, investing in communities that have traditionally had less access to quality care.
“Healthcare is a right, not a privilege and making sure people have equal access to quality healthcare is a top priority for this administration,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Reopening Westlake Hospital is a step toward addressing longstanding disparities in our healthcare system that have left some residents without the medical care they desperately need. I applaud Speaker Welch and Representative Willis for their steadfast commitment to their constituents and residents across the state who have been underserved for far too long.”
“After fighting more than a year to keep Westlake Hospital open, I thank Governor Pritzker for swiftly signing SB 168 into law,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Westchester). “Because of our quick action, it’s now easier to sell and reopen Westlake Hospital since it meets criteria for serving underserved, low-income communities.”
“So happy to see Westlake back. This will provide healthcare and jobs to this community,” said State Representative Kathleen Willis (D-Northlake). “A community that was hurt by the closure two years ago.”
“I am glad to see a critical health care facility set to reopen on the west side,” said Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). “Both the care and jobs this hospital will provide will be crucial to this community’s recovery from the pandemic.”
The legislation allows for an expedited process for a provider to reopen the hospital as efficiently as possible. Rather than a certification of need that a healthcare provider would typically need to file to open a hospital, the legislation requires a certificate of exemption to allow the acquisition process to be expedited and healthcare access to be restored in the area. This is particularly important amidst the devastating impacts of COVID-19, especially in vulnerable communities like those served by Westlake Hospital.
The party interested in reestablishing the hospital must meet and agree to the following conditions:
• Commit to spending at least $20 million to reestablish the hospital, which includes the cost of land acquisition, building acquisition, new construction, and new equipment
• Adopt and maintain a charity care policy that is no less restrictive than what was in place prior to the closure for at least two years
• Accept Medicaid and Managed Care Organization patients
• Agree to maintain ownership of the hospital for no less than five years after reopening
Westlake Hospital was previously a fixture in the Melrose Park community, providing reliable healthcare from trusted medical professionals. The hospital’s for-profit parent company announced it would close the institution in early 2019, only weeks after finalizing the purchase, leaving a void in the community. During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, Governor Pritzker announced that the 230-bed facility would temporarily reopen to treat patients with COVID-19 and help alleviate the burden on surrounding hospitals. By permanently reopening Westlake Hospital, the legislation ensures that all residents have access to trusted healthcare in their local communities.
SB 168 takes effect immediately.