Oak Forest Hospital hangs in the balance

A state board could decide the hospital's fate today.

May 10, 2011

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(WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)
Protesters voiced loud objections to closing Oak Forest Hospital at a state board's March meeting.

The fate of Cook County’s Oak Forest Hospital could be decided Tuesday in Joliet, where the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board will hear an appeal from Cook County today. At its last meeting, the board rejected a proposal to close Oak Forest hospital and replace it with expanded outpatient services. Protestors disrupted that March meeting and helped persuade two board members to vote no.

Dr. Terry Mason will be making the county’s case this time, just one day into his new job as interim CEO of the hospital system. He said the wild atmosphere at the last meeting didn’t help the county’s cause.

“There was a number of distractions that prevented the board members from actually hearing the testimonies that were given,” Mason said. “It would be my hope this time that we would have a different environment.”

It’s not clear he’s going to get it: Union and community organizers were planning to bus people to Joliet Tuesday morning for the hearing. They say closing Oak Forest would be a hardship on patients in the south suburbs, especially the uninsured.