Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, which intends to close next year, is moving forward with plans to open a $13 million outpatient center less than two miles away.
Mercy’s owner, Catholic giant Trinity Health, applied with the state this week to open Mercy Care Center. The clinic, in space Trinity leases at 3753 S. Cottage Grove, would offer urgent care, diagnostic testing and care coordination to connect patients with the right providers and services.
“The move comes in response to concerns from health care officials about the growing disparities in outcomes of health among African Americans and other diverse patients, a concerning trend that pre-dates the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but is made worse by it,” Trinity said in a statement today.
The clinic, to be completed by Sept. 30, 2021, would primarily treat uninsured patients, as well as those on Medicaid and Medicare, which pay less than private insurance. As a result, it’s expected to generate operating losses of about $3 million per year, according to the hospital’s application with the state.
“Trinity ultimately developed the plan to open the Mercy Care Center after determining that Mercy Hospital & Medical Center was no longer sustainable” amid declining inpatient volumes, an aging facility and competition from large health systems, Trinity said in the statement.
Mercy posted net income of $4 million in fiscal 2020, compared with a net loss of $36 million a year earlier.
The proposed closure has prompted outrage from elected officials and community members who say fewer hospital beds in the area will make it harder for Black and Brown patients to get medical care.
“We need more services, not less, for the residents that safety-net hospitals serve,” the Chicago Department of Public Health said in a Nov. 4 letter to the state about Mercy’s planned closure. “The closure of Mercy will create new gaps in trauma care/emergency care services, behavioral health care, services for people living with HIV/AIDS, substance use and addiction services, as well as emergency preparedness and response.”
Talk of closing Mercy last year is what led four financially struggling South Side hospitals to explore a merger. The deal fell apart after state legislators declined to help fund the combination, citing a lack of specifics around where any new facilities would be located and which existing facilities might close.
The state health board is tentatively scheduled to vote on the project at its Jan. 26 meeting. The proposed closure of the hospital is scheduled to be discussed at the board’s Dec. 15 meeting.