By Joe Boyle
Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton was optimistic that the merger between Little Company of Mary Hospital and OSF Healthcare would produce high quality care for patients at the Evergreen Park facility.
"It is miraculous," said the mayor about the Feb. 1 agreement in which Little Company and OSF Healthcare combined to officially complete the merger of OSF Healthcare Little Company of Mary Medical Center, 2800 W. 95th St.
"It is just amazing how this all came together," Sexton said. "What a really great job they have done over here. I can't say it enough. And the timing of all this, jut before COVD-19. They have really stepped up."
The mayor was referring to the fact that when the novel coronavirus began to spread, the hospital began to care for more patients who contracted the disease. Cases began to increase in Cook County overall. However, cases were not as high in Central Illinois. Nurses from that region then decided to step up to help, volunteering to work at the Evergreen Park hospital to care for COVID-19 patients.
The nurses all work for OSF Healthcare, which is based in Peoria. The nurses from the Catholic hospital system wanted to assist in the effort, less than a month after the agreement to merge with Little Company became official.
Sexton was impressed that OSF Healthcare not only provided much-needed nurses, but personal protection equipment (PPE) necessary to care for patients dealing with the virus.
"That's why I say it was nothing less than a miracle," the mayor said. "They have been incredible."
Little Company avoided the struggles that have hampered other health facilities during the emergence of the pandemic. OSF Healthcare has utilized rotating shifts that have allowed for a full staff. While some of the nurses have come back and forth, at least 50 have remained and have been working at OSF Little Company during the outbreak.
Sexton thanked the efforts of Dr. John Hanlon, CEO of OSF Little Company, for navigating the hospital during these unchartered waters. Hanlon admitted that the situation has been difficult due to the increase of patients.
"I talked to Dr. Hanlon about how full they are are of patients, and how tired they are," Sexton said. "But he told me that they will get through it."
Negotiations with Little Company and OSF HealthCare began last summer. Hanlon was confident at the time that an agreement could be reached.
"We are very happy to be with this system (OSF)," Hanlon said. "They have never closed a hospital. OSF is committed to their hospitals."
"On Feb. 1, we had 14 new doctors added for emergency care," Hanlon said. "It was a busy day on Feb. 1."
Sexton also mentioned that the Evergreen Park Recreation Department Preschool students participated in the parking lot graduation ceremony Friday morning at the Evergreen Park Community Center, 3450 W. 97th St.
The mayor said that a video will be shown on the village website sometime this week.
"It was a bittersweet, yet happy, occasion and we hope for the best for all of our Evergreen Park youth," Sexton said.
The mayor added that many businesses will be reopening again in the village on Friday, May 29.
Outdoor dining will take place, which the mayor said will be a work in progress. Steps will be taken soon at several popular Evergreen Park locations that include Tavern in the Green, the Red Palm and the Unidad Bar and Restaurant.
"Social distancing precautions will be in place and will be monitored," Sexton said. "Please be patient with them (businesses) as they make this adjustment. They will be doing the best that they can.
"But I believe we are getting there," the mayor added. "I think we seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."