A state review board has approved the sale of Weiss Memorial and West Suburban hospitals, after years of angst between community members and the hospitals’ current owner.
The State Health Facilities and Services Review Board voted 6-0 on Tuesday, in several votes, to allow California-based Pipeline Health to sell Weiss in Uptown and West Suburban in Oak Park to Resilience Healthcare for $92 million.
Resilience is a newly created, for-profit company led by Manoj Prasad, whose initial training was as a physician but who has spent much of his career helping to turn around health care facilities, he said.
“Over the past 30 years I’ve had the privilege of leading numerous health care organizations and have rescued a number of challenged facilities,” Prasad told the board Tuesday. “I have moved to live in this community with my family, and I plan to stay here with my ear to the ground to better under the communities’ needs.”
He said the first order of business will be to stop the financial bleeding at the hospitals, and he hopes to eventually bring new services to the hospital and expand and improve others, such as women’s care.
Prasad estimates the hospitals will be able to save millions of dollars a month by improving their revenue collection and electronic medical records systems, among other things. Patients on government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare will continue to be welcome at the hospitals, he said.
New Jersey-based businessman Rathnakar Patlola is a financial partner in Resilience and will invest in the acquisition and operations. Patlola’s company Ramco Healthcare Holdings will own the land on which the hospitals sit, with Resilience entering into long-term lease agreements with Patlola.
“I firmly believe health care is a human right,” said Patlola, who said his background is as an energy distributor on the East Coast. “I do not view this as an opportunity to make money.”
The sale’s approval follows a checkered history between the hospitals’ current owner, Pipeline, and community members.
More than three years ago, Pipeline angered community members and leaders, shortly after it bought the two hospitals and Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park. Pipeline initially said it would turn around the three financially struggling facilities, but instead said it would close Westlake just weeks after taking ownership, sparking fears that it had similar plans for Weiss and West Suburban.
Those worries were stoked recently when Pipeline agreed to sell a Weiss parking lot to a developer hoping to build apartments on the site.
The closure of Westlake, and the animosity it created, has made it difficult for Pipeline to solidify relationships with local leaders in recent years, Pipeline CEO and co-president Nick Orzano told the board Tuesday. He said he hopes a new owner will have better luck being embraced by local politicians.
Pipeline plans to credit $12 million from the Weiss parking lot sale to Resilience to reinvest in the hospitals. Orzano also noted that Pipeline has invested about $60 million in the hospitals since it took ownership, despite sustaining losses of tens of millions of dollars.
“It’s clear to me successful turnaround of these hospitals requires full-time, boots-on-the-ground local leadership, which Dr. Prasad can provide,” Orzano said.
Ald. James Cappleman, 46th Ward, and Oak Park Village President Vicki Scaman also spoke in favor of the sale Tuesday.
“This ownership transition serves as further proof that Weiss hospital is here to stay,” Cappleman said.
The pending sale, however, had spurred mixed feelings among some community members, though no one spoke in opposition to it Tuesday.
While many community members are happy to see Pipeline exit, some have said they are wary about the sale. Some community members have questioned whether Prasad has the experience and commitment to turn around the hospitals and do what’s best for the community.