The Franciscan Alliance has plans to close St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights in a month. Original plans to condense services and close the emergency department and all physician offices at the more than 100-year-old hospital at the end of the month have been pushed back at least two weeks, a Franciscan official told Patch on Monday.
Instead of an ER, urgent care services will open in Chicago Heights at a Franciscan-owned building near St. James. Additional services will also be available at Franciscan Health Olympia Fields when the transition is made, according to Maria Lena Ramos, VP of marketing and public relations for Franciscan Health.
Renovated nursing units, a new family birth center and an inpatient rehabilitation area are among the improvements made at the Olympia Fields campus. St. James won’t close until the Illinois Department of Public Health gives a final approval to the new spaces in Olympia Fields, Ramos said.
Originally slated to be on July 31, the goal is to now have the changes take place the week of August 13.
The process to close the 24/7 emergency room at St. James Hospital, a facility that has served Chicago Heights and the surrounding areas since 1911, started two years ago when Franciscan officials decided it was best to consolidate services at the Olympia Fields site.
“In the healthcare climate today, it is just not conducive for us to operate two full-service hospitals just four miles from each other,” said Ramos. “A lot of planning, strategic planning, and consideration took place that helped us come to a conclusion on the best way we could serve our communities while structuring things a bit differently.”
While Franciscan Health in the south suburbs will be down to one full-service hospital in Olympia Fields, several remain in the area on the other side of the Indiana border. Franciscan hospitals will remain open in Munster, Dyer and Hammond. The locations in Munster and Dyer are just a few miles from each other.
In a statement to Patch, Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez said his priority since Franciscan Health’s decision to close St. James “is to ensure that our residents will have access to medical treatment and health care services in Chicago Heights.”
“The city council and I are hopeful that St. James will keep its promises to Chicago Heights residents,” Gonzalez said, noting that a meeting was held with hospital officials last month to reaffirm “a successful transition.”
“I expect, as do the members of the city council, that Franciscan Health will honor their agreement to provide a modern, local health care system in Chicago Heights.”
Ramos said the commitment to the Chicago Heights community is there, with a professional office recently built in the city continuing to hold primary care physician offices and soon 24/7 urgent care.
As for the St. James building, demolition remains an option. Ramos says redevelopment of the property will be a focus for Franciscan, which at least for the time being will continue to own the property.
“We don’t want to leave an empty building,” Ramos said. “We certainly look forward to having the opportunity to continue to provide healthcare service for people here in Chicago Heights and the surrounding communities.