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South St. Louis hospital's closure leaves social, economic void in Dutchtown

Illinois Department of Human Services Inspector General Peter Neumer is pictured with a backdrop of Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center, where he investigated allegations of abuse and neglect. He will step down as inspector general on Aug. 17.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
South City Hospital, formerly St. Alexius, on South Broadway Street in St. Louis has struggled financially in recent years.

Community leaders in south St. Louis say the closing of a troubled hospital leaves an economic and social hole in the Dutchtown neighborhood.

Owners of South City Hospital, previously known as St. Alexius, announced last week they were closing the 178-bed location, according to the hospital’s receiver, Daniel Wiggins. The hospital moved patients and laid off most employees, with a few security workers staying to guard the property, he said.

On Wednesday, there was a board placed over the hospital’s sign, and the entrance was covered with yellow hazard tape.

“If someone were to show up and to need care, that's what they would find,” said Annissa McCaskill, executive director of the Dutchtown South Community Corp. “It actually looks abandoned…it’s just sad.”

Finance group SA Hospital Acquisition Group bought the hospital out of bankruptcy in 2021. The hospital had a history of financial problems and had changed ownership and leadership several times during the past decade.

The future of the hospital remains unclear. Representatives at SA Hospital Acquisition Group and Twain GL XXV, a St. Louis-based company and the hospital’s landlord, could not be reached for comment.

Many of the beds at the hospital were dedicated to treating behavioral health patients, said Alderman Shane Cohn, a Democrat who represents the 3rd Ward.

He hopes another health system could take over the property.

“We're just trying to reach out to as many potential stakeholders, operators, tenants as possible to see where there might be some interest in being able to maintain health services in a community that’s in dire need of them,” Cohn said.

The emergency department at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital on South Grand Boulevard is five miles from South City Hospital. Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s ER, on North Kingshighway, is seven miles away.

The closure also affects residents’ economic health, said McCaskill, of the Dutchtown South Community Corporation.

“They were a major employer,” she said. “People could take the bus there, and it’s right on the bus line And just the size of it — everything from people doing landscape work to doing things inside for the different services that they did offer.”

Twain last year announced it would invest$27 million in property improvements to upgrade the hospital. McCaskill saw some of those renovations underway when hospital representatives invited her group to tour the facility last September.

But beginning earlier this year, she was not able to get in touch with anyone from the hospital, she said.

“It made me feel like what they were doing was going to make them unique and might attract people to the site,” she said. “And now with them being closed, I don't know what happens.”

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.