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Oak Forest Hospital to stay open

An Illinois board has voted down the proposed closure of a Chicago-area hospital that serves low income patients.

The Illinois Health Facilities Review Board made their decision to keep open Oak Forest Hospital during a meeting Tuesday in Joliet.

In doing so, the board rejected Cook County's request to close the hospital.

Dozens of protesters who showed up to oppose the closing erupted into cheers upon hearing the board's announcement. Some held large photos of Oak Forest patients who would have been forced into nursing homes if the hospital closed.

Cook County officials say the vote will cause great difficulty to the county's health system.

The county had planned to close the south suburban hospital June 1. It wanted to convert the facility to a large outpatient care center as part of a money-saving plan to re-balance the county's health services.

This is the second time the county has been unable to convince the board of its proposal.  At its last meeting in March, the board also rejected the plan after protestors disrupted the meeting and helped persuade two board members to vote no.

Dr. Terry Mason made the county’s case this time, just one day into his new job as interim CEO of the hospital system.

Lynda DeLaforgue, co-director of Citizen Action Illinois, says the board's vote on Tuesday gives the county a chance to reevaluate its strategic plan for health care and keep the hospital open.

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