A U.S. Bankruptcy Court has approved plans to shut down the St. Vincent Medical Center in Westlake and divert patients to nearby hospitals.
Judge Ernest M. Robles, in a ruling issued on Thursday, rejected objections to the closure by the California Nurses Association, which said the shut down of St. Vincent and its busy emergency room presents a grave public safety risk.
The shut down of the St. Vincent ER, which treats nearly 23,000 patients annually, could have an impact on such facilities as the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center and Hollywood Presbyterian in East Hollywood and Good Samaritan, which operates the closest emergency room to Echo Park.
"The Court is fully cognizant of the hardship that closure of St. Vincent will have upon employees and members of the surrounding community," said Robles in court documents approving the closure. "The absence of any serious purchaser willing to acquire St. Vincent as a going-concern has placed all constituencies in this case in a difficult position. However, forcing the Debtors to keep St. Vincent open when there is insufficient money to operate it would only make the situation far worse for St. Vincent and for the patients of the Debtor’s other hospitals."
The hospital's owner, nonprofit Verity Health System, shocked the medical community when it announced plans to close the facility on Monday after a deal to sell St. Vincent and other medical centers fell through. According to court documents, St. Vincent alone is responsible for 60% of Verity's operating losses.
Verity's other three hospitals -- including St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood -- will remain open.
A closure date has not been set but a proposed timeline included in court said the ER would be closed within three days after plans to shutter the hospital were approved by the judge. All surgeries and elective procedures would be stopped within a week while the dialysis and transplant departments would be closed within two to three weeks.
Judge Robles, however, gave doctors who lease office space at St. Vincent another 30 days before they have to move out.
It's not clear what will happen to St Vincent's sprawling campus at Alvarado and Third Streets. One potential last-minute bidder, according to court documents, that emerged for the facility intended to use the property as a real estate investment if its partner could not develop a plan to profitability operate St. Vincent.
The hospital, which was founded in 1856, has 366 patient beds and a staff of more than 1,300, according to its website.