Cook County hits snag in closing Oak Forest Hospital

March 7, 2011

By Gabriel Spitzer

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State public health officials say shutting down Oak Forest Hospital would place a hardship on patients in the area. That could be a big setback for Cook County, which wants to close the hospital and rebrand it as a regional outpatient clinic.

The county needs state approval – and a report out today indicates they may not get it. The Department of Public Health report finds closing the south suburban hospital would place a burden on nearby facilities, and exacerbate shortages in long-term care and intensive care beds. The county plan would shift in-patient care to other area hospitals, and to the county’s Stroger Hospital.

Lucio Guerrero, spokesman for the County Health and Hospitals System, says the findings are largely technical. “I think we made a pretty compelling argument why we need to do this, why we think it’s the best fit and the best way to get health care services to the south suburbs,” says Guerrero.

The proposal goes before the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board for a vote in two weeks. Guerrero says he’s confident the board will overrule the recommendations in today’s report, and approve the county’s plan.