The Cook County Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the temporary restraining order filed against Pipeline Health by the village of Melrose Park in order to keep Pipeline from closing Westlake Hospital before the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board decides on the proposed closure on April 30.
The appellate judges ruled 3-0 in favor of the reversal on Thursday morning — two days after Pipeline was found in contempt for violating a temporary restraining order that was issued on April 9. As part of that contempt of court ruling, Pipeline had until 9 a.m. Thursday to reopen every Westlake department except for the bariatric unit. If Pipeline failed to restore those services, the initial ruling said it could face a $200,000 a day fine.
The appellate court, however, ruled that the village did not have standing to file the temporary restraining order. In a statement released Thursday, a Pipeline spokesman said that the appellate court's ruling could "serve a potential fatal blow" to a lawsuit that the village of Melrose Park filed against Pipeline in March.
The lawsuit alleges that Pipeline committed fraud and conspiracy in the process of purchasing Westlake last year. Melrose Park officials, along with state lawmakers — including state Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (7th) and state Rep. Kathleen Willis (77th) — said that Pipeline officials told them that the hospital would remain open after Pipeline purchased it from Tenet Healthcare as part of three-hospital package. Two weeks after the purchase was finalized in February, however, Pipeline reneged on that promise and announced it was closing Westlake, the lawmakers said.
In a statement released Thursday, Pipeline Health CEO Jim Edwards said that the company is "pleased" with the appellate court's ruling "and we are now working to lift the [temporary restraining order] completely."
Edwards said that Pipeline needs "to get back to investing in patients and not buildings. Westlake Hospital is in dire financial straits today because of poor decisions made by Rep. Welch and others. Pipeline Health is cleaning up the mess that that Rep. Welch caused with his 10-year tenure as the chairman of Westlake's board and his voting record in Springfield."
In an earlier statement, Pipeline spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said that Welch and Willis voted "to deprive the hospital of its $4 million in assessment funding just months ago" and that Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico "didn't work to stop the Village of Melrose Park withdrawing its $500,000 of support for Westlake's redevelopment plan. These votes accelerated the financial slide that threatens the hospital's ability to safely care for patients."
In a statement released April 17, Welch said that Pipeline "knew of Westlake Hospital's financial state when it was purchased, and they continued to promise our community that it would remain open for two years. Rather than honor their promise, they broke their word and chose to take access to health care away from a largely black and brown community."
Welch added that "to make matters worse, when our community stood together demanding access to the care that we were promised, Pipeline made the unconscionable decision to close the hospital months before originally announced. A decision that I believe is direct retribution against our community for having the strength to stand against injustice and demand the care that we were promised."
On April 16, Pipeline Health offered to sell Westlake to Melrose Park—a move that a village spokesperson called "a stunt."
"Who makes an offer to sell a hospital via a press release? If they're serious, they should send us terms," said Melrose Park spokesman Andrew Mack.
Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico said that the offer was "another attempt for them to deflect their responsibility to run the hospital that they purchased and promised to keep open for at least two years."