A company based in New Jersey is in the process of getting state approval to permanently reopen Westlake Hospital, 1225 W. Lake St. in Melrose Park, as Woodlake Specialty Hospital.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board conducted a public hearing related to New Jersey-based Woodlake Pacific Holdings’s application on June 15.

The same day, Crain’s Chicago Business broke the news that it had obtained court transcripts showing that Westlake’s previous owner, California-based Pipeline Health, “never intended to keep the hospital open” despite promises to the contrary that Pipeline’s representatives made in the weeks and months leading up to purchasing the Melrose Park hospital, along with two others in the Chicago area in 2018.

“‘Pursuant to the party’s acquisition agreement, the Westlake Hospital was required to be shut down by June 5th of that same year,’ bankruptcy trustee representative Allen Guon said during a hearing last November,” according to a court transcript Crain’s obtained.

“Pipeline’s 2018 change of ownership application with the state said the transaction ‘will result in no changes to the scope of services offered at Westlake,’” Crain’s reported.

Pipeline paid $70 million in 2018 to purchase Westlake, West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park and Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago from Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare. The company still owns the latter two hospitals. It closed Westlake in 2019, the year the Melrose Park hospital filed for bankruptcy.

Crain’s reported that it isn’t “clear why the acquisition agreement required Westlake to be closed,” but “Tenet’s deal with Pipeline came shortly after Tenet sold MacNeal Hospital to Loyola Medicine for $270 million in 2018.”

A Loyola Medicine representative told Crain’s that the health system “made no such request regarding the closure of Westlake Hospital.”

The proposed Woodlake Specialty Hospital would include 230 beds, the same number that Westlake Hospital had. In the application it submitted to the Review Board, Woodlake Pacific Holdings representatives said that they plan to spend an estimated $43.4 million to acquire and renovate the aging Melrose Park property.

They said if their application is approved by the state, they anticipate completing the hospital by Dec. 31, 2022 and estimated that. “At least 500 to 600 permanent jobs will be created.”

As with Pipeline, Woodlake officials have vowed not to discontinue the hospital’s charity care policies, which are designed to provide affordable healthcare for low-income and indigent individuals.

According to Woodlake’s application, Mark Tress, the managing member of Woodlake Specialty Hospital and Woodlake Pacific Holdings, certified “under penalty of perjury” that “Woodlake Specialty Hospital LLC will not adopt more restrictive charity care policies that were in effect at Westlake Hospital prior to its closure in 2019 and that those charity care policies will remain in effect for no less than two years following the reopening of the former Westlake Hospital.”

Dr. Glenn Kushner, the last president of the medical staff at Westlake Hospital prior to its closure, has agreed to serve as the inaugural president of the medical staff at Woodlake Hospital, Woodlake officials stated.

Woodlake said on its application that the new hospital “is arguably the first project in at least 30 years where a new provider is prepared to invest over $40 million into an underserved community with no real commitment that the State will cover any unprojected, operating losses.”

The company added that the pending opening of Woodlake was made possible by Senate Bill 0168, which was filed by Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) in March. The legislation outlines the requirements for reopening a discontinued general acute care hospital.

Under the new law, any entity seeking to reopen a previously discontinued general acute care hospital has to reestablish the same number of total licensed beds as were previously licensed by the state at the discontinued hospital, among other provisions.

Among those 230 beds, Woodlake will have 80 acute mental illness beds, 60 long-term care beds, 33 long-term acute care beds, six intensive care unit beds to support the long-term acute care unit, and 40 comprehensive physical rehabilitation beds. The hospital will also maintain a stand-by emergency department.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com