Former Westlake employees sue hospital's owner

Charge retaliatory termination by Pipeline Health for whistle-blowing

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Two former employees of the shuttered Westlake Hospital, 1225 Lake St. in Melrose Park, have filed a lawsuit against the hospital's owner.

The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County on March 24, claims that the company fired Marianna Woosley and Phyllis Morris — Westlake employees for 28 and 26 years, respectively — in retaliation last year after the plaintiffs provided information and evidence demonstrating that Pipeline was attempting close down the hospital in violation of a temporary restraining order filed against it by the village of Melrose Park. 

Melrose Park sued Pipeline Health and what the lawsuit claims were two shell companies — Pipeline-Westlake Hospital LLC and SRC Hospital Investments II LLC — which the California-based company allegedly "would use to purchase and quickly close" Westlake despite telling state regulators that it would continuing operating Westlake and providing charity care, or free or reduced health care for low-income patients, for at least two years following the change of ownership transaction.  

The mandatory requirement to continue providing charity care put Pipeline Health "in a difficult position," the lawsuit states. 

"On the one hand, Pipeline Health knew that it would not follow through on any sworn promises to provide charity care because it planned to permanently close the hospital immediately upon purchase," the lawsuit states. 

"On the other, Pipeline Health knew that without making the sworn charity care promises, the [Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which regulates hospital acquisitions] would deny its application and Pipeline Health would lose out on the opportunity to purchase" West Suburban Medical Center, 3 Erie St. in Oak Park, and Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago. The latter two hospitals were the only "profit-generating hospitals that [Pipeline's] investors were determined to acquire."  

Once Pipeline secured regulatory approval, it finalized the purchase of Westlake on Jan. 31, 2019 before announcing three weeks later on Feb. 16, 2019 that it would soon file an application to close the hospital. 

The lawsuit states that Woosley and Morris learned of Pipeline's plans to close Westlake "on or around Feb. 16, 2019," when it filed an application with the state's Review Board, requesting permission to discontinue all services. Melrose Park sued Pipeline for fraud and violations of the village's municipal code on March 7, 2019, the lawsuit explains. 

Even though Pipeline's application was scheduled for review by state regulators during a meeting on April 30, the company tried closing the hospital before the meeting, prompting Melrose Park on April 9 to file a temporary restraining order in the Circuit Court of Cook County prohibiting Pipeline "and its affiliates from closing Westlake Hospital before its application was approved by the Review Board," the lawsuit states. 

On the same day, Pipeline Health CEO Jim Edwards instructed senior officials within Pipeline and Westlake to start "shutting down all operations" at Westlake and "vacating the facility." 

After learning of the village's temporary restraining order, Woosley and Morris began providing the village with evidence that Pipeline was violating the order and state law by attempting to close a hospital before the state granted permission. 

On May 2, Pipeline — "furious with both Plaintiffs for reporting its violations" — fired Woosley and Morris. No other employees were fired, the lawsuit states. 

Pipeline directed Westlake to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August 2019 in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware. Westlake closed in the same month. 

The lawsuit was filed by attorney Ari J. Scharg, of Edelson PC, the same law firm that filed the lawsuit against Pipeline on behalf of Melrose Park. Woosley and Morris are both seeking back pay, with interest, damages for their emotional distress, punitive damages, all litigation costs, reasonable attorneys' fees, and all other relief available at law." The lawsuit did not specify a dollar amount. 

Westlake's emergency department has since been temporarily reopened by the state as an alternate care facility designed to take in COVID-19 patients, in case existing hospitals in the area become overwhelmed.

Attempts to contact representatives with Pipeline Health on Monday were unsuccessful. 


Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad