Illinois board approves controversial plan to close Oak Forest Hospital

Hospital slated to close by Sept. 1

August 16, 2011

City Room and AP Wires

(File/Getty/Kevorak Dejansezian)

Updated at 3:42 p.m. on 8/16/11

A state health planning board has voted to approve Cook County's controverial plan to close Oak Forest Hospital.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted 7-1 Tuesday in favor of the proposal.  One board member voted present.  All three new board members appointed recently by Gov. Pat Quinn voted for the county's plan.

But the vote included a condition requesting county officials return in one year to update the board on the implementation of their plan to convert the hospital to a regional outpatient center.  The board also requested the that the county inform the board if they encounter any difficulty getting other local hospitals to take former Oak Forest patients.

The county now plans to close the hospital by Sept. 1.

Cook County has tried for months to close inpatient services at Oak Forest Hospital and downsize operations at the 213-bed facility.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says Oak Forest is currently underutilized and the changes will save the county's health system an estimated $2 million per month.

No hospitals can shut down in Illinois until the nine-member state board gives the green light to do so.

The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board has authority over hospital closures - a power most states don't have.

In May, the Board previously blocked Cook County's efforts to close and convert Oak Forest Hospital. At the time, the nine-member board had three vacancies. In June, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn filled those slots with three new appointees.

The county since revised its plan, proposing to establish a 24-hour immediate care center at the facility, rather than one with shorter hours.

The proposals to eliminate services at Oak Forest Hospital prompted protests from some nearby residents who said the moves will deny the south suburban residents access to health care.

A report from the Illinois Department of Public Health also says closing the hospital would increase the shortage of intensive-care and long-term care beds in the already underserved area.