GALESBURG, Ill. — UPDATE as of 10:45pm January 8:
Galesburg Cottage Hospital has confirmed, on Jan. 8, that the hospital is suspending all services, effective immediately.
In an email sent out to staff, owner and CEO Dr. Sanjay Sharma said:
"While we disagree with the findings and decision, the recent notice from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has made it necessary to temporarily suspend all services at Galesburg Cottage Hospital effective immediately. The health and safety of our patients is our top priority and we have tried our best to provide the quality services in spite of the challenges posed by the Covid 19 Pandemic. We are concerned about the lack of elder psychiatric care and certain other services in the community which Galesburg Cottage was providing so far. We wish the community the very best health care services in the future."
Galesburg Cottage Hospital temporarily closed on Saturday, Jan. 8 after staff were escorted from the building.
Galesburg Police received a call at about 3 p.m. Saturday from the hospital's owners alleging they received a threatening phone call from an employee. Police told News 8 officers responded and performed a walk-through of the facility and concluded everything was safe.
Shortly after, multiple staff members told News 8 they were ordered to evacuate the building.
As of Saturday evening, signs posted to the doors of Cottage read, "Galesburg Cottage Hospital is temporarily closed." Cell phone video obtained by News 8 shows alleged employees standing outside of Cottage, minutes after being escorted out of the building.
The owners of Cottage Hospital, Sanjay and Priyam Sharma, have been unreachable for comment. News 8 reached out to multiple members of the hospital's PR team for additional clarification on Saturday afternoon and have yet to hear back.
In an email to select staff members dated Jan. 7, Dr. Sanjay Sharma notified team members the hospital would be temporarily closing and their employment was terminated immediately.
"The Hospital's Medicare provider agreement was terminated on Dec. 27, 2021, and, despite our efforts to explore ways to stay open, it is no longer sustainable to continue operating at the moment," read the letter.
The email noted the information might be difficult and offered at least one staff member a severance bonus of over $3,000 if they would sign and return an enclosed Transition Incentive document. It said all employees have until Jan. 28 to consider signing the document.
But other employees tell News 8 they can no longer access their emails to look for similar letters, reporting they've been locked out of their inboxes.
News 8 was granted exclusive access inside Cottage on Friday, Jan. 7 by employees at the hospital. Those same employees, as well as others not involved in inviting us in, were later terminated for violating media policy.
Inside, nurses could be seen clearing out lockers and desks, boxing up personal belongings and preparing for departure. In every hallway, staff members could be seen crying and hugging one another, with many asking where others had found new employment. The night before, all but one of the surgeons associated with Cottage had been unexpectedly terminated.
"It's a shame. None of this had made sense to me from the get-go," said one terminated employee, who we are keeping anonymous for safety. "I think it's pretty fair to say (the owners) don't know what they're doing. Just started firing people. It's a hospital. You can't do that."
All of this comes just days before Cottage was set to have Medicare and Medicaid funding pulled, after multiple investigations by the government. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services concluded in late December the facility was so understaffed and mismanaged that it posed a serious threat of injury or death to patients and employees.
The temporary closure also occurs days after the clinic associated with Cottage filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. While the clinic is a separate business from the hospital, it is owned by the same people, Sanjay and Priyam Sharma. The two also own hospitals in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
OSF St. Mary Medical Center, the other hospital in Galesburg, is now bracing for a surge in patients leaving Cottage. In a statement to News 8, an OSF spokeswoman said:
"We are deeply concerned about the patients, families and health care professionals impacted by the temporary closure of Cottage Hospital. OSF HealthCare St. Mary Medical Center in Galesburg and OSF Holy Family Medical Center in Monmouth have been receiving an influx of patients at both hospitals and we are working diligently to meet the needs of the community. Please be aware we are in a COVID-19 surge and that has already strained our Mission Partners and resources, so we ask those coming to us for care and their loved ones for patience and understanding as we meet these unprecedented challenges."