Prayers have been answered.
We asked not long ago to imagine Palos Community Hospital took the time and small expense to redraw its South Campus expansion plans in such a way as to save the Palos Health & Fitness Center it worked so hard to build more than 15 years ago
It isn’t hard if you try, we suggested.
Enter Orland Park Mayor Daniel McLaughlin who worked quietly for weeks with hospital officials to negotiate a deal that has turned the coldest news so far this year into warm feelings of gratitude to him, hospital officials and all the members of the grassroots Save PHFC group that worked so hard to save it.
They organized meetings at the fitness center, then at a local church. They created a Facebook page that grew to some 670 members. On it they swapped ideas and tactics. They wrote letters to state lawmakers, village and township officials, doctors, lawyers, anyone in a position to help. They spoke out in large numbers at a public hearing on Feb. 18. They held and attended Masses and said prayers on their own.
They created a movement and mobilized for protest. They enlisted a very public ally, Orland Township Superivsor Paul O’Grady who filed a lawsuit, now made moot, on their behalf. They marched in protest to the hospital on March 12.
They did so much since that Jan. 15 letter informed members of the Palos Health & Fitness Center that it would be closed to make room for Palos Community Hospital’s South Campus expansion. And every week, The Regional News checked in to see what they were doing next and report on it.
We simply could not imagine those swimming pools reduced to rubble. Its steam rooms, saunas and whirlpools and warm water therapy pool hauled away in dump trucks to some construction-waste landfill.
The mayor of Orland Park apparently had the same thoughts that tearing down the center would be a terrible waste. Village officials had been considering the costs of building their own indoor swimming pool, but $5 million or $6 million seemed just too steep. Especially considering all the competing needs vying for municipal funds.
Now Orland Park will have a pool, built 15 years ago at Palos Health & Fitness enter. People with arthritis, sore joints and a host of other aches and pains, some quite crippling, will surely keeps using it now that they won’t have to lament its passing.
People with multiple sclerosis won’t have to miss the fitness center’s MS aqua and MS yoga programs.
We also greet as very good news the state’s OK on Tuesday for the hospital’s plans for a $133,2 million medical office building and other improvements to its Primary Care Center campus at 153rd Street and West Avenue. We see it could be just the start of a wellness park of many acres, one-stop outpatient medical care close to the fitness center, Centennial Park and whatever related developments of senior care for an aging population the future will bring.
In a time when so many American institutions have let us down, when people are used to being disappointed, overcharged, underserved, even defrauded, it gives us a bit of hope when power listens to the people. When they can work together to do the right thing.
After so many prayers to save it, it is fitting that the joint announcement by the village and hospital saving this Orland Park fitness center was made. And who knows what greater paths this agreement will open up for the betterment of people residing in our community that if the status quo remained unchanged without it.