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Pipeline Health stumbles

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Opinion: Columns

February 19th, 2019 3:44 PM

By Editorial

You only get one chance to make a first impression, or so the saying goes. Pipeline Health, the new owner of West Suburban Medical Center, and, for the moment, of Westlake Hospital, has officially squandered that first impression.

The mishandled announcement Friday that the L.A.-based Pipeline would seek permission from the state to shutter Westlake Hospital in nearby Melrose Park raises questions of both integrity and competence.

The health-care company, fronted locally by Dr. Eric Whitaker, friend of Obama, etc., seemingly spent months negotiating the purchase of these two local institutions along with Chicago-based Weiss Memorial from Tenet Healthcare. Where then was the due diligence? How, in a two-week period, can Pipeline go from closing the deal amid promises it would be investing in three hospitals to the bombshell that Westlake had be cut loose and fast?

Whitaker, in an interview with Crain's, said closing Westlake was not part of the plan, but that "people who work in health care … have seen [Westlake] patients vote with their feet in terms of going to other facilities.

We've heard the same thing for several years under the past two ownerships of the West Sub/Westlake combine. West Sub is getting by modestly while Westlake is a money-losing machine. Why then didn't Pipeline force Tenet to do the hard PR job of applying with the state to close Westlake? Why didn't Pipeline refuse to purchase Westlake? Either would have been preferable to its excruciating announcement with its message of abandonment to Proviso Township and heartlessness to its 500 employees.

Tenet, based out of Dallas, will be remembered as a blip in local health-care history. But Pipeline made its case as a different sort of community-building, health-care company. Now it is making new promises that the closure of Westlake will strengthen West Sub as services are shifted to Oak Park and patients and docs theoretically follow.

We get the reality that health care is changing and needs to change more and faster. There are fewer inpatient beds needed, investment in technology and outpatient care is essential. Our hope has been that Pipeline would lead our community health care in that direction. Today it feels as if it is stumbling out of the box.

Inevitably those promises of greater investment in West Sub ring hollow. Suddenly Pipeline Health has a lot to prove.

D209 and Dominican collaborate

Good things can happen when two institutions on the make join forces to solve a problem by sharing resources.

In District 209 Proviso Township High Schools the challenge is the rapid, and for too long unaddressed, rise in the number of students for whom English is not their first language. The district needs its teaching force to learn how to better teach this growing group of Latinx students.

Dominican University is making its bet and focusing its mission on how to best serve Latinx students.

Now the institutions are collaborating on a new 18-credit Dominican course that will result in Proviso teachers earning state certifications in English as a Second Language and bilingual education. So far, 21 Proviso teachers have begun the coursework. 

A great partnership.