7/11/2018, noon | Updated on 7/11/2018, noon
For the last two years, South Suburban residents, emergency service providers, hospital staff and municipal government officials have been working ...
Franciscan St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights is set to close at the end of this month which has Southland Mayors and emergency service providers working together to prepare for the stress that the closure will put on surrounding emergency rooms and ambulance services..

Closure of St. James Hospital Could Cause Longer Wait Times For Emergency Services


For the last two years, South Suburban residents, emergency service providers, hospital staff and municipal government officials have been working together to prepare for the closure of Franciscan Health’s St James Hospital in Chicago Heights.

Now the time has come and the century-old facility is set to remove its critical care service on July 31.

The closure is part of a restructuring of services that will utilize the Franciscan Health Olympia Fields Hospital for emergency room services and in patient care.

Last month, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA), an intergovernmental agency providing information and technical services to forty-three municipalities in the southern suburbs of Chicago, held a meeting with about 70 people representing Southland hospitals, police departments, and fire departments. The general consensus was that the closure of St James Hospital was going to be a challenge.

“I think the biggest issue is the ambulance and hospital turn around time, that’s the major one. The second major issue for every hospital that we had represented at our meeting, and we had roughly about 70 people and four different hospital groups that are in the Southland area, I know that their biggest concern is that they are already at capacity or over capacity of what their ER rooms were designed for,” said Bob Kolosh, mayor of the village of Thornton and chairman of public safety for SSMMA.

In January of 2016 Franciscan Alliance Incorporated submitted an exemption application to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board requesting permission to discontinue a 312-bed acute care hospital. Following the exemption application, a public hearing was held.

During the public hearing in 2016, Arnie Kimmel, chief executive officer of Franciscan St. James Health, listed the reasons for wanting to close St. James Hospital. First, Franciscan Health has two hospitals within 10 minutes of each other, St. James and Olympia Fields. The St. James Hospital building is over 100 years old and it would take $50 million in repairs to bring it up to code. The hospital suffered a $66 million operating loss between 2011 and 2014 and lastly the health network wanted to be sure they were making the best use out of the Olympia Fields facility.

Since the application was submitted, community healthcare stakeholders have been preparing for the closure of St. James Hospital.

“We want to make sure that we have those lines of communication open and that we are responding and are sensitive to the issues that are created. I think the overall conclusion, and this was stated by a number of individuals that were there representing various constituencies, both police and fire within the municipalities along with the EMS coordinators and the hospitals, that the closure is going to have a dramatic impact on patients and have a significant impact on EMS service,” said Kristi DeLaurentiis, executive director of SSMMA.

The SSMMA will hosts another public meeting after the closure is complete to receive community feedback and make a plan on how to best meet the emergency medical needs of South Suburban residents.