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Cook County files revised plan to shut Oak Forest Hospital

Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

Cook County has quietly refiled its plans to shut Oak Forest Hospital — in a slightly tweaked form. And this time, it looks like the proposal will be approved by state regulators.

    Without public announcement, the county submitted paperwork for a crucial approval — known as a certificate of need — with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which twice recently has said "no" to similar requests.

  The latest version is somewhat different.

   Oak Forest Hospital still would be closed as a medical center and be converted into an out-patient clinic. But the clinic's immediate care center — a walk-in facility for non-emergency cases — would be kept open 24 hours a day, up from 16 in the earlier filings.

   That may help the county win its case. So will new plans to form a Southland Advisory Council and new support from local hospitals. Earlier versions were rejected by the state board in part because of concerns that some patients would lose services and nearby hospitals would be overwhelmed.

   But the main thing working in Cook County's favor is that there are new members of the state board, who were appointed last week by Gov. Pat Quinn.

   The proposal got four "yes" votes last time, with one "no." But under the rules, an absolute majority of the nine-person board was needed for approval — even though three seats have been vacant.

   Anyhow, with a full contingent of commissioners onboard, the county presumably will be able to snag the additional single vote its needs. And while the newbies do need to be confirmed by the state Senate, my understanding is that they get to vote right way.

  No word on how much it will cost the county to operate the immediate care center an additional eight hours a day.





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