Protesters with the Chicago Health Equity Coalition, an organization dedicated to improving health across Chicago and Cook County, rallied outside Mercy Hospital on Tuesday afternoon, in efforts to prevent the hospital from closing after its owner filed for bankruptcy earlier this month.
Trinity Health Systems, which owns the Bronzeville hospital, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 10 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The decision sparked outrage in politicians and community leaders, who say shutting down Mercy will cause harm to the city’s Black community.
“When they didn’t get their way (Trinity Health Systems), what did they do?” said Dr. Anudeed Dasaraju, a resident in Emergency Medicine at Mercy from the University of Illinois Chicago, at Tuesday's protest. “They filed for bankruptcy.”
“All we hear is people every day doing press conferences where racial justice is coming out of their mouths, where Black Lives Matter is coming out of their mouths,” said Jitu Brown, director of Journey 4 Justice and a member of the Chicago Health Equity Coalition. “But when it counts, they shrink; when it counts, they’re invisible; when it counts, our lives really don’t matter.”
At the Tuesday afternoon protest, more than a dozen members of the coalition called on leaders of the Catholic Church, such as Cardinal Blase Cupich and Cardinal Wilton Gregory, as well as Sr. Mary Haddad, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, to make Trinity Health sell Mercy to a buyer who will keep it a full-service hospital in the same location.
On Feb. 4, Trinity Health signed a racial justice agreement with the Catholic Health Association, and announced a new initiative to confront racism by achieving health equity.
“Trinity Health Systems is a bad actor,” Brown said. “They have forfeited the right; they have forfeited the privilege of administering health care in the Black community.”
Brown and other community activists are also calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to issue an executive order calling for an immediate moratorium on hospital closures.
The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Board Review Board has twice rejected Trinity Health's proposal to close Mercy and build a $13 million outpatient care center as replacement, though Trinity has said that it still plans to close on May 31. The review board will meet again on March 16 to discuss the closure.
Ald. Sophia King (4th) previously expressed concern for the closure of Mercy Hospital and wants another health care facility to take over.
“I think they have proven that they are not worthy of managing a hospital in our community,” King said. “When I say I want to save Mercy, I am not saying let’s save the current managers of Mercy.”