Sweet Home Chicago
Jackson Park Hospital

Written By: Tim Loftis

Jackson Park Hospital

“Come on, baby don’t you want to go, come on, baby don’t you want to go, back to that same old place, Sweet Home Chicago!” Even though I haven’t lived in Chicago since I was 21, back in 1989, I still go back often and every time I do I get a smile on my face and can’t help singing this song in my head.

To most people, The Blues Brothers is probably just the first movie to be made with members of the Saturday Night Live cast, and a distant memory of the late, great John Belushi. But, to someone who grew up in Chicago in the seventies and eighties, Jake and Elwood are more like family members than characters. For me The Blues Brothers movie is a nostalgic journey to the memories of my childhood and all the great things that I proudly recall about where I grew up. I remember going to Dixie Mall as a kid not long before it became the location of one of the greatest indoor car chases ever, walking past the ritzy Chez Paul restaurant downtown just to see where Jake and Elwood threw shrimp cocktail into each other’s mouths, watching games at Elwood’s home at 1060 W. Addison (look it up if you don’t know the address), and living in an old apartment downtown and being glad that at least it didn’t have the “L” running outside. But it was the music, oh that music! Ray Charles lighting up an old electric piano and throngs of people dancing in the streets to “Shake a Tail Feather”; Cab Calloway bedecked in white tuxedo tails and crooning “Minnie the Moocher”; the inimitable James Brown bringing the light of God into Jake in a gospel frenzy at the Triple Rock; Aretha Franklin reminding us “You Better Think; the “The Good Old Blues Brothers Boys Band” taming a rowdy cowboy bar with “Rawhide” and then the Blues Brothers themselves. This is quintessential Chicago to me; gritty, witty, irreverent, funny, farcical, fantastical and full of soul.

I’m always excited to get back to my “Sweet Home Chicago,” but as a representative of Med One my visits home have given a new meaning to me. Since 2012, Med One has financed over $20 million with hospitals throughout the Chicago Metro region, providing needed capital, not only to some of the state’s best run hospitals, but also hospitals that serve some of the most at risk populations. It is through one of these relationships that I’ve learned how much Med One can do to support our hospital partners.

Jackson Park Hospital

A History of Service

In a gritty neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, just a few miles south of the University of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry, you can find Jackson Park Hospital. It is a 269 bed acute care hospital that has been serving this community going back at least to World War I when it provided services to wounded veteran’s. Back in the origins of the hospital, the area was the southern border to the fashionable Hyde Park neighborhood and the hospital served an affluent population. Much has changed since then and today the hospital serves a highly indigent population where 80% of the 25,000 patients they see annually are covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

The Jackson Park area may be best known as the site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (Worlds’ Fair), which featured the world’s first ferris wheel, as well as life size replicas of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. It was a fully electrified event with lights, illuminated fountains, and spotlights provided by none other than Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Set on the south shore of Lake Michigan, the 600-acre area in Jackson Park that housed the world’s fair was actually part of an 1869 plan for a 1,055 acre park imagined by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted, and Calver Vaux, designer’s of New York’s Central Park. The original vision was to create a park that was intended for “thousands of the very class of citizens whose convenience most needs to be considered…the toiling population of Chicago.” Known as the South Park System, the park was to utilize the natural beauty of the location on the shore of Lake Michigan and connect Jackson Park, the Midway Plaisance, and Washington Park through a system of waterways and canals inspired by Venice.

"While other hospitals in the area have either closed or moved away, Jackson Park Hospital has invested over $32 million in expansion and renovations to ensure that their patients receive the medical care they need."

While the World’s Fair proved a great success, the South Park System never became the sylvan escape from the city that the designers imagined. Within a year of the fair’s closure most of the buildings from the event had been destroyed by fire. By the 1950’s and 1960’s many of the areas affluent patient base began moving to the suburbs, and the Jackson Park Hospital team had a decision to make: go with the middle-class patient base into the suburbs, or stay and serve the diverse community that was growing. While it may have been easier or more lucrative to leave, they made the decision to stay and have been a bedrock of healthcare in this south side neighborhood ever since. While other hospitals in the area have either closed or moved away, Jackson Park Hospital has invested over $32 million in expansion and renovations to ensure that their patients receive the medical care they need.

A Relationship Begins

Med One was first introduced to Jackson Park in 2011 while financing a new multi-million dollar EMR system. Over the next 3 years we began to develop a relationship as we financed a few small projects related to their new EMR system. But it wasn’t until 2014 when I met with VP of Finance, Nelson Velasquez, that we discovered how well we could support the hospital. I told Nelson that we thought the EMR project went well, and that we were interested in helping them with any other needs they may have. He told me that while they had some other financial relationships, they were unable to finance the projects needed, and asked if Med One would consider them. As usual, Med One stepped up to the plate to see what kind of curve ball we’d see.

"After the Jackson Park team saw that Med One could be flexible, adaptive, and competitive we developed a relationship as a trusted advisor."

Nelson introduced me to Director of Materials Management, Norma Ramos, who informed me that they recently renovated their 3rd floor maternity ward, and needed some equipment that was not included in the renovation. When she provided me with the equipment list, I think my eyes popped wide open, kind of like a cartoon character, complete with an ahooga horn sound. While some of the equipment was right up our alley, (ventilators, crash carts, bassinets) most of the equipment was way outside of the box for a finance company (emergency signs, refrigerators, furniture, blinds, artwork and even outdoor signage). I skeptically submitted the affectionately dubbed “Franken(stein)-deal” for approval expecting to have at least some of the equipment declined. When I got the green light from the Med One credit team I picked my jaw up from off the floor and had a whole new appreciation for the real power that Med One offers with our flexibility. Norma and the team at JPH were equally surprised and appreciative, they realized that Med One could be relied upon to help with whatever the hospital needed. We finished the “Franken-deal” in August of 2014 and completed 4 more projects together before the end of the year.

Trusted Partners

After the Jackson Park team saw that Med One could be flexible, adaptive, and competitive we developed a relationship as a trusted advisor. They knew that we were straight forward in our terms and conditions, that we were highly responsive, and that we gave them great rates. We knew that they appreciated our efforts and would give us the chance to compete for all of their business. Jackson Park implemented a process where they submitted leasing requests to bid from three different companies. Whenever they had a project that they were considering for financing Med One was always one of the three. Although Med One didn’t finance every project that came through, we found a pattern that worked well for everyone. If a vendor had in-house financing, often they were able to offer better pricing because they already owned the equipment. But if the vendor didn’t have an internal finance group, or if the project was outside of the box, Med One was usually the best option.

Jackson Park Hospital HVAC System

Since then we have financed surgical instruments and tables, scopes and monitors, defibrillators, medical dispensing systems, and many other medical products that are the bread and butter of Med One’s business. We’ve financed projects with JPH as low as $4000 and projects in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But one project in particular became the epitome of our level of commitment to supporting our partners at Jackson Park.

Heating up to Chill Out

By 2015 the hospital building was almost 50 years old and while much of the hospital has seen upgrades and renovation, it became apparent that the HVAC system needed to be replaced. Just like many hospitals, Jackson Park is cost conscious and focused on providing the highest quality of care to their patients while closely monitoring the bottom line. Large capital projects are not taken lightly and the team was trying to find a way to replace the much-needed chiller system while trying to mitigate the large up-front costs.

Barry Mandel, VP of Special Projects approached us with the project in 2015 and asked if we would consider financing such a unique project. My first thought was, “we finance medical equipment, not industrial equipment.” We need to have equipment that we can collateralize and can re-sell if needed. So, the truth is, we wouldn’t finance this kind of a project with a new customer. However, we had been working together for a few years and just as we are a trusted advisor to them, they are a trusted customer to us. We also knew that this was a big need for the hospital and we needed to find a way to make it happen. Once again Med One stepped outside the box and took on the project.

Jackson Park Hospital HVAC Equipment

Throughout the project we worked closely with the Jackson Park team and the contractor, Performance Mechanical Contractors, to create a customized solution that would work for all parties. We needed to provide benchmarks for progress, periodic payments to the contractor, and financial and legal paperwork that could intersect 3 distinct companies and systems. Although the process was complex, it went smoothly because we were partners in this project. We were committed to getting the system in place to protect patients from the summer heat that would be coming again.

I am a finance guy, not an engineer. Needless to say, I learned more about industrial equipment than I ever expected. During the eighteen-month long project, I visited the hospital 2-3 times per year to check progress and ensure that our financial dispersals properly tracked the installation process. I watched as PMC brought in tons of equipment to their facilities and prepared for installation. I watched as the equipment was loaded onto trucks and moved into the hospital, I watched as the engineering team, led by Rodney Harper, worked in an old, hot furnace room and removed monstrosities of antiquated metal and replaced them with a shining new system. I learned about the different equipment and the process for installation, but most of all, I learned about a hardworking team dedicated to serving their patients. By the time the project finished, we all proudly knew that the patients in the hospital would remain comfortable and cool during the sometimes-oppressive Chicago heat, and that we completed this project without any major hiccups.

Today, I consider the team at JPH not only colleagues, but friends. I know the challenges they face working in a hospital that aids an underserved and at-risk population. I know the difficulties that they and many other hospitals in Illinois face with the state budget issues. I know that every time I see anyone at that hospital I am met with a kind smile, a warm embrace, and a willingness to find ways to get the work done.

To Serve and to Grow

When Jackson Park Hospital initially decided to stay in their south side home in the sixties and seventies they coined a motto that expressed their commitment to the community: “To Stay and to Serve.” Today, after decades of living this commitment, they have a new motto: “To Serve and to Grow.” I couldn’t think of a better motto for Med One to support, after all, that is exactly how we help hospitals. One of the greatest things about working at Med One is knowing that we are helping hospitals serve their communities, care for people, and ultimately save lives. It means a lot to us. As a kid who grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago it means a little bit more now when I come back. I am lucky to go back to the city 3-4 times a year now, and while I often get to see my friends, go to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game, (sorry south side friends!) or visit Soldiers Field (and pray that the Bears will justify my continued devotion), my main purpose is to visit all the great hospitals in the area. I stand a little taller and I feel a little warmer inside knowing that I’m doing something that helps my hometown and community in some small way. As I get off the plane at O’Hare, jump into my rental car, grab an Italian beef and sausage with giardiniera, and start my journey across the Chicago metro region, Jake and Elwood’s song gives way for a little bit and good Old Blue Eyes starts playing a song I’ve sung as long as I can remember: “Each time I roam, Chicago is, calling me home, Chicago is, why I grin like a clown, It’s my kind of town.”

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