Saint Anthony Hospital has been a Chicago fixture on the Southwest Side for more than a century. Residents and local leaders say it’s time to upgrade the hospital facility but that they keep getting overlooked.
Saint Anthony is what’s known as a “safety-net” hospital, though CEO Guy Medaglia prefers to call it a community hospital.
“We formed the hospital based on community needs,” Medaglia said. “So community needs are labor and delivery, pediatrics, mental health — very important. And then of course ICU. We have an emergency department.”
The brick building may look beautiful on the outside, but Medaglia said the facility is not built like a modern hospital and is sorely in need of updates. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are ancient, he said. So, too, are the elevators, which are so outdated that the hospital has to buy used parts from elevators in Europe for repairs.
That’s why Medaglia has spent more than a decade working to build a new facility. It would be in the 22nd Ward.
Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd Ward) said residents deserve a modern health care facility.
“Communities like Little Village and North Lawndale that Saint Anthony serves were disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus,” Rodriguez said. “We know that folks that are more immigrants, that are more working class, have less access to equitable health care and equitable health care outcomes.”
Their plan is for Saint Anthony to relocate and to serve as the anchor for a mixed-use development. The hospital already bought the land and has local zoning approval. The Focal Point Community Campus, as it’s being called, would offer retail, housing and a school at what’s now a vacant lot at the intersection of 31st Street and Kedzie Avenue.
Rodriguez calls it a “critical corner.”
“31st and Kedzie, where Saint Anthony is going to be going, is in the heart of Little Village — the capital of Mexican Midwest,” Rodriguez said. “But it’s blocks from North Lawndale, one of the most historic African American communities in the city of Chicago, and just across the bridge and the I-55 Expressway from Brighton Park and McKinley Park and Archer Heights — areas that are all working class.”
Medaglia said the hospital spent $62 million so far on the project. He is committed to seeing it though, but he said government support is needed to make it a reality.
Instead, he said he has watched as the city “wasted” money on COVID-19 field hospital beds at the McCormick Place convention center that never got used, and as the state funnels infrastructure dollars to projects that could be considered pork.
“I’m happy for anybody that gets money,” Medaglia said. “This is not a, ‘Hey, they got money. I didn’t.’ But you know, if somebody that doesn’t sleep at night and you want to go through these 10,000 pages of the budget, you will find — no, I mean it — they’re buried in there. Whether it’s to remodel a university or a school or a theater. It’s there.”
While he doesn’t begrudge that spending, he said it’s a pity that with a state budget of more than $40 billion, Saint Anthony Hospital has been unable to claim a percentage.
Medaglia wouldn’t provide a specific number of what is needed, but Rodriguez said the “working class” residents from the area are worth “tens of millions” in infrastructure support.
“For whatever reason, you know, Saint Anthony’s just gets ignored,” Medaglia said.
Saint Anthony bused several hundred advocates to Springfield last week to press lawmakers to stop ignoring the project.
Their request comes during heated budget negotiations, as the General Assembly has a self-imposed deadline to pass a new state budget by May 19.
If the project does go through, Rodriguez said he is committed to working with neighbors on what to do with the current hospital building, though the existing hospital is not in his ward.
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