MetroSouth Medical Center, Blue Island | Youtube screenshot
While a number of factors may decide the fate of a Blue Island hospital, one that will not is a lawsuit from a one-time would-be purchaser of MetroSouth Medical Center.
Early last fall, Oak Brook-based People’s Choice Hospital LLC filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court, seeking to block Quorum Health Corporation from closing MetroSouth.
To shepherd their legal gambit, People’s Choice hired the Chicago class action firm of Edelson P.C. to represent them in the case.
However, a little more than two months after filing the lawsuit amid a swatch of publicity, People’s Choice and Edelson quietly withdrew their lawsuit, before the matter even landed before a judge.
The Nov. 19 filing doesn’t indicate a reason for the withdrawal of the lawsuit. The motion merely recites the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, which they said gives plaintiffs the right to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit, without prejudice – meaning they are able to later refile the action, if they wish – so long as “no trial or hearing has occurred” in the case.
The judge approved the dismissal.
In their lawsuit, People’s Choice asserted the Brentwood, Tenn.-based Quorum had “lied to the public and the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board by claiming that it doesn’t have enough money to continue operating MetroSouth … and cannot find any buyers.”
People’s Choice asserted it had offered Quorum $20 million for MetroSouth. Rather than accept that offer, People’s Choice asserted Quorum intended to net $64 million from liquidating the hospital, cashing out accounts receivable and selling hospital assets.
However, People’s Choice asserted Quorum had told Illinois state hospital regulators it had no buyers.
After filing the lawsuit, Edelson lawyer Ari Scharg said, in a post on Twitter, the firm was engaged in “yet another fight against a for-profit, out-of-state hospital owner. We’ll never run out of energy or passion to fight for access to health care.”
Edelson is also representing the village of Melrose Park in its efforts to extract damages from Pipeline Health, the owner of the shuttered Westlake Hospital. Melrose Park was unsuccessful in preventing Westlake from closing, as the owners, citing multimillion dollar losses, filed for bankruptcy. The village, however, is continuing to sue Pipeline, claiming their bankruptcy filing came in contempt for a Cook County court order that otherwise required the hospital to remain open. That case remains pending.
Quroum responded to People’s Choice’s lawsuit over MetroSouth by asserting People’s Choice had “repeatedly misrepresented the facts regarding their discussions” over MetroSouth. Quorum called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said the plaintiffs were “wasting the community of Blue Island’s time, and that of the courts.”
Almost immediately after the suit was filed, however, Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas switched sides, signing a deal with Quorum to support the closure of MetroSouth in exchange for a $2 million payment to the city, which was ostensibly based on MetroSouth’s property tax liability to the city.
The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted in October to support the closure.
In the weeks since, Quorum has reportedly been in talks with a group, known as South Side Health Inc., to acquire MetroSouth, with plans to convert it into a standalone emergency department. The reports have noted, however, such a conversion would require the Illinois General Assembly to change the law.
A proposal to do so, introduced by Blue Island’s Democratic State Rep. Bob Rita has not yet been acted upon by lawmakers in Springfield.
In a statement supplied by a spokesperson, Quorum said: "Quorum Health continues to keep discussions open with multiple interested parties. No agreement has been made at this time to transition MetroSouth Medical Center.
"Quorum remains hopeful a solution will be found that is in the best interest of the community."