Loretto Hospital. Wikimapia.

With only about 41 percent of its beds occupied by patients, Austin’s Loretto hospital is the second-emptiest hospital in the six-county area behind Roseland, according to a report in Crain’s Chicago Business.

“Hospital CEOs and industry experts tick off a host of reasons that so many beds are vacant, an emptiness that has intensified in the past few years,” Crain’s notes.

“Huge demographic changes in Chicago gutted many minority neighborhoods. Roseland on the Far South Side and Austin (home to Loretto Hospital, the second-emptiest facility in Chicago) and Humboldt Park on the West Side each lost 14 to 16 percent of their residents, or nearly 37,000 combined, between 2000 and 2010, according to the city of Chicago.”

Loretto’s president and CEO, Dr. Sonia Mehta, told Crain’s that she disputes the raw data and pushed back against the suggestion that Loretto should merge with other hospitals to deal with its underutilization problem.

“We would be out of business if we did that,” she told Crain’s. Mehta said that what some government and industry experts don’t understand is that hospitals such as Loretto serve a population of people that other hospitals simply refuse to serve.

 “What they’re not understanding is, do institutions like Northwestern or Rush want our population?” said Mehta.

 “They don’t. And let’s say, hypothetically, inner-city hospitals close. . . . The cost of care would go up, the access would go down and the underserved patients would be more underserved.”

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