‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Near South Side

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted both the importance of access to health care and disparities in access to it, which is why residents who live near Mercy Hospital and Medical Center say they’re furious about its plans to close next year.

Mercy Hospital is a 170-year-old institution. Its original building survived even the Great Chicago Fire.

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Former Mayor Richard M. Daley was born there, as were other notable politicians.

“I’m honored to be here. I was born at this hospital. My two brothers were born at this hospital,” said former Gov. Pat Quinn. “More babies were born at Mercy Hospital last year than Northwestern – a giant hospital.”

Despite that, Mercy’s parent company, Trinity, announced in late July it plans to close sometime next year.

Rather than operate as a full-service hospital, a spokeswoman says Mercy will reopen as an outpatient clinic somewhere on the South Side that will offer preventive care, diagnostics, urgent care and care coordination.

That’s not sitting well with patients, doctors and local residents, who took part in a rally Thursday denouncing Mercy's decision, and calling on the hospital's leaders to reverse course.

The pending closure comes after last year both the MetroSouth Hospital in Blue Island and Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park closed.

Residents are also still smarting from the 2009 demolition of the Michael Reese Hospital in Bronzeville.

When, and if, Mercy shutters, the closest hospitals would be the University of Chicago Medical Center, about 5 miles or a 15-minute drive away or Cook County’s Provident Hospital, which is a roughly 10-minute drive and 3.5 miles from Mercy.

It also comes as Cook County’s health system is planning layoffs, and changes including closing the Near South Medical Center – less than 1.5 miles from Mercy; those doctors and their services will instead be at Provident.

Mercy executives haven’t been available to the media since their plans were announced. A spokeswoman says they’re focused on running the hospital and planning the transition.

But the hospital offers a statement that says that the approach to health care on the South Side right now is causing rising disparities in health care, and that those will be addressed with preventive care like that offered at the outpatient clinic.

All of this comes after an attempt by Mercy and three other hospitals had planned a merger, and a mega-hospital. But legislators failed to come through with state cash to help pay for it, so those got scrapped in May.


Community Reporting Series

“Chicago Tonight” is expanding its community reporting. We’re hitting the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. See where we’ve been and what we’ve learned by using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in red represent our series COVID-19 Across Chicago; blue marks our series “Chicago Tonight” in Your Neighborhood.

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