Provident Hospital of Cook County, 500 E. 51st St.

The University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) is taking in emergency patients from the Provident Hospital of Cook County, which has closed its emergency room until May 6 as it prepares to house a greater number of COVID-19 patients.

As of Tuesday, there are 108 COVID-19 patients at UCMC, including 18 on ventilators.

During Provident's ER closure, county Commissioner Bill Lowry (D-3rd) said those who self-transport to Provident, 500 E. 51st St., for emergency care will be directed to the UCMC. Ambulances already have been redirected.

Anyone who self-transports to the Provident ER at this time will be triaged there and either directed to another facility or seen by a physician at Provident.

Lowry said there are areas that have been physically underutilized at Provident and that those areas are being put to use for the care of tested-positive coronavirus patients. Provident was founded in 1891 as the first Black-owned-and-operated hospital in the nation, and it has been part of Cook County Health (CCH), the county’s hospital network, since 1998.

Those areas are "going to be utilized for treatment, relative to those who have been exposed to COVID-19," Lowry said. "It is very fluid, but at this point it appears as though we're talking about quarantining, making sure that those individuals do not become symptomatic, thus requiring hospitalization in other facilities."

In an email, CCH spokeswoman Caryn Stancik said, “The ability to open additional beds is contingent upon additional staffing that CCH does not currently have. CCH has requested additional healthcare personnel from the state to assist in staffing at Provident.”

Provident’s inpatient unit, respiratory and radiology services, pharmacy and laboratory remain open. Its primary care services, behavioral health and specialty clinics (e.g. cardiology, general surgery, infectious diseases) are open telephonically and for urgent walk-ins.

"This is so important that this message is known: Provident is open for certain types of care, and that will continue throughout the re-purposing of certain areas of the hospital in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," Lowry said.

An April 3 CCH statement said that Provident, "as a small, community hospital … is best positioned to care for lower acuity patients while Stroger (Hospital, the system's flagship) is where we treat more complex patients, including the overwhelming majority of hospitalized COVID patients."

It went on to say that Provident "has only cared for a few COVID-19 patients" and that its ER "has a very small footprint and sees fewer than 70 patients each day," without the capacity to handle large numbers of patients suffering from a highly infectious global pandemic.

The Provident operating room, which only provides non-emergency and elective surgeries and procedures, is temporarily suspended. Its staff have been redeployed to other areas of need and other facilities in the county health network

Provident's six-bed intensive care unit is also closed, allowing the redeployment of staff until it reopens. Provident's ER staff has been temporarily reassigned to Stroger, 1969 W. Ogden Ave., or other county medical procedures to assist with the pandemic response.

Union nurses with National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United protested the closure on April 6, saying that, while the ER could not provide the response the pandemic requires, the county did not inform the public or employees in a timely manner.

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