WAUKEGAN, Ill. — State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, is reacting with outrage after Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan had its trauma center designation revoked on Friday, following the failure of its owners to properly manage it.
“Waukegan is a low-income, working-class community that is now without a trauma center hospital,” Mayfield said. “This is a huge problem in terms of equitable access to care no matter what the reason. But for this to be happening because a company bought a hospital only to almost immediately allow it to fall into insolvency—to the point where there is no budget and doctors and staff are not being paid—is outrageous.”
Licensing examiners conducted an on-site investigation of Vista on Jan. 29, finding that, among other things, Vista had no written budget, and that staff—including physicians and specialists—either had not been paid in months or had seen their payroll checks returned for insufficient funds. A report by the Lake County Coroner indicated that this was a primary reason behind an exodus of staff which led in turn to Vista no longer meeting the criteria to remain a trauma center.
Losing trauma center designation means that Vista can only treat minor injuries, with more seriously injured patients needing to be transferred to other hospitals. Vista also is now no longer eligible to participate as a hospital in the Medicare program.
After two other changes in ownership over the last five years, Vista was purchased by American Healthcare Systems, a for-profit company, in July 2023.
“Waukegan needs its hospital to remain open, fully staffed and fully operational. Waukegan families need and deserve access to the same basic services as does every other community in Illinois,” Mayfield said. “American Health Systems and Vista Hospital have an obligation to swiftly and completely get their house in order and address these issues. If they can’t do it, then they should step aside so that someone else can. Continued neglect and failure at the expense of Waukegan families is unacceptable.”