City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell called on the city Friday to explore the possibility of turning soon-to-close St. Vincent Medical Center into interim or permanent housing for the homeless, possibly including mental health, substance abuse and other services.
“I think at this time, property owners, folks who own institutions, city leaders, county leaders, state leaders, we need to put our heads together and figure out how we can put a deal together to either acquire the site outright and take over management and operations ourselves, or enter into some sort of long-term lease that might work financially as well,” O’Farrell told reporters.
“But we know that something has got to give, and if it is not going to continue (to be used) as a hospital, which looks more and more likely as the days go by … let’s take a serious look at re-purposing the facility entirely.”
The nonprofit Verity Health System announced earlier this month that a proposed sale of the hospital in the Westlake District had fallen through, and the facility would be closing. Verity Health has been working through Chapter 11 bankruptcy and had hoped to transfer ownership of the hospital and three other medical centers.
O’Farrell said the city could potentially acquire the 366-bed hospital for less than what it would cost to build the same number of beds for the homeless, although he said the exact cost is unknown at this time. He said the city has reached out to Verity Health System.
Calls to Verity were not immediately returned.
According to Verity, current patients at St. Vincent Medical Center will continue to receive care until they can be discharged or transferred to other hospitals. The hospital’s transplant programs will be relocated to other facilities to ensure patients “will continue to receive high-quality care from their existing physicians.”
O’Farrell’s motion calling for an exploration of acquiring the facility will first be heard in the City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, which he chairs.
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