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updated: 3/20/2014 8:04 PM

Maryville Behavioral Health Hospital to close

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  • Officials announced Thursday that the Maryville Behavioral Health Hospital in Des Plaines will close by June, pending state approval.

    Officials announced Thursday that the Maryville Behavioral Health Hospital in Des Plaines will close by June, pending state approval.


Maryville Academy officials announced Thursday their plans to close the Maryville Behavioral Health Hospital in Des Plaines by June, citing heavy financial losses.

The announcement comes in the midst of ongoing negotiations with a labor union representing nursing employees at the hospital, and just days after conclusion of a five-day strike by nurses protesting what they said are unsafe staffing levels and unfair labor practices. Negotiating teams for the union and management were set to meet with a federal mediator Friday.

Maryville officials said they will file a request next week with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board to close the hospital.

"It is with sadness that we must ask to close the hospital," Sister Catherine Ryan, Maryville's executive director, said in a news release. "But the hospital has been losing money for years, including $4 million last year, and more than $3 million thus far this fiscal year."

Officials said they have been using reserve funds to supplement Medicaid payments.

"Continuing to operate a hospital at this level of deficit puts our family preservation and child welfare programs at risk," Ryan said in the release.

The hospital, located at 555 W. Wilson Ave., provides inpatient psychiatric care for children, adolescents and young adults between 3 and 20 years old. There are currently 21 patients at the hospital -- most of whom are wards of the state. State officials would ultimately be responsible for finding new facilities for the patients.

"They're being taken care of (here) for the next few months," said Maryville spokesman John Gorman. "We know there are other psychiatric hospital facilities in the area where these children can go."

A total of 147 full- and part-time employees could lose their jobs as a result of the hospital's closing. The Illinois Nurses Association represents all 26 nurses at the hospital, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees represents about 60 employees, including mental health counselors, cooks, maintenance employees, housekeeping staff, medical records personnel and secretaries. Nonunion employees at the hospital include psychiatrists, psychologists and supervisory personnel.

Employees were notified Thursday of the hospital's closing. Gorman said Maryville would help employees find new jobs elsewhere, though within the Maryville system, "we simply don't have openings for that many employees."

Meanwhile, the scheduled federal mediation session with the nurses union and Maryville management will still be held.

"We'll be speaking to the union (Friday), but the subject will not be (nurse-to-patient) ratios and salaries," Gorman said. "The subject will be how this move affects the nurses."

Chris Martin, a spokesman for the nurses union, said union officials were surprised when they received a call from Ryan on Thursday about the hospital closure, and they're hopeful a way can be found to keep the facility open.

"It's an important facility in terms of the patients it treats," Martin said. "We think it's best for all parties -- the nurses, public and people at Maryville -- that it stay open and we're trying to find a way to do that."

Nurses, who unionized in August 2012, had been trying to negotiate their first labor contract at the hospital. Martin said Thursday marked the first time since negotiations began in February 2013 that Maryville management brought up the possibility of the hospital's closing.

But Gorman said Maryville officials have been discussing that possibility "for years."

Maryville bought the 93,000-square-foot facility, the former Forest Hospital, in 1999. Gorman said the hospital's finances have operated in the red for 14 of the 15 years Maryville has owned it.

"We simply couldn't afford to keep it open," Gorman said. "It's strictly a financial decision."

Maryville officials said they hope to "refashion" the hospital site into a center that would offer community-based services for children and families, though specific plans for the facility haven't been determined.

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