Cook County Health Bureau News


The Cook County Bureau of Health Services needs to be rushed to the “emergency room” according to a recent report by members of the Emergency Network to Save Cook County Health Services.

“Patients are walking around, looking for the clinics that they no longer can go to because they have been closed,” a member of the Network announced during a November 2, 2007 press conference held in the facility that once housed one of the closed community health clinics on the city’s South Side.

Members of the network proclaimed “a crisis” in the county’s healthcare system that needs an immediate remedy in the form of a “temporary trusteeship.”

The trusteeship would be an attempt to reform and restore “committed leadership, sound managerial practices, and public trust in the county’s bureau of health system.”

Cook County’s medical system serves the poorest residents of the Chicago. Earlier in the year, to curb its $500 million deficit, Cook County Board members eliminated the jobs of doctors and nurses and other frontline healthcare providers, including laying off anesthesiologists at John Stroger Hospital’s major trauma center. They closed over a dozen of its Ambulatory and Community Health Network clinics in poverty-stricken neighborhoods in April, and slashed medical services at several of the county’s hospitals servicing the poor and indigent, such as Provident and Stroger Hospitals.

Based on recommendations from the county’s bureau of health services Review Committee, several members of the network, including two Chicago area congressmen, announced their support for a proposed ordinance by Commissioner Larry Suffredin, ‘to immediately create an interim board of trustees to establish a committee to study independent governance of the bureau of health.”

At the press conference, U. S. Reps. Danny K. Davis (7th-IL) and Jan Schakowsky (9th-IL) talked about why they supported the establishment of an emergency trusteeship to take control of the troubled health bureau and restore needed services “free of political interference.”

They both agreed “the current governance and oversight process is not adequate to address this crisis.”

“We are on the verge of slipping back into the dismal past when an absolute dual system existed…a system where it was expected and acceptable for poor people to wait hours and sometimes days for emergency services…a system which required poor people to travel from Ford Heights to Fantus Clinic on West Harrison Street to see a physician…a system which forced poor people to wait months for needed surgery, to suffer needlessly and, in many instances, to die prematurely,” declared congressman Davis, a former Cook County Board Commissioner and health professional for the last thirty years.

Rep. Schakowsky said the “sadly changing” reputation of the county’s bureau of health department is forcing the needy to turn to other already overburdened community clinics and hospitals with financial and staffing burdens.

“The moral problem is also a threat. Physicians and other healthcare professionals, who have served our communities so well and have been so passionate about it, are leaving. The accreditation council of graduate medical education recently met and recommended that Cook County’s OBGYN residency program be stripped of its accreditation because there are not enough doctors to provide adequate oversight. We cannot, and will not let the Cook County healthcare system go from being a point of pride to being a source of embarrassment,” she proclaimed.

Earlier in the year, Schakowsky said she and other congressional colleagues fought a decision to suspend the IRIS System, an electronic appointment system that allows patients at community health centers to schedule follow up diagnostic and specialty care appointments at Stroger Hospital.

“Fortunately, that poor decision was overturned and disruption in care was avoided. That as we see at the Hayes Center, other community health services have not yet been restored, and in fact more services are now in danger of being cut. The one million people who rely on the Cook County health system for medical care are now in jeopardy,” she declared.

Groups want Dr. Simon Out
Closure of clinics wasn’t the only issue that stirred controversy about the county’s $500 million deficit.

Dr. Robert Simon, interim chief of the Cook County Bureau of Health Service job was also wanted on the chopping block.

McNary said many members of the Network believe that Dr. Simon had “welded his scalpel to much” and it was time for him to “put the scalpel down at this point.”

“Cutting clinics like [the Hayes Center] that serve 4,000 people a year, we think that that is just too much cutting. It’s time to put the scalpel down. It’s time now for rehabilitation,” NcNary said.

At this point McNary added, “We need a trusteeship that is accountable for something other than just political factors. So the difference between Simon and this system, we would have a CEO who is selected by healthcare professionals as oppose to by politicians,” he said.

In December, RJ asked Garner if Stroger would heed to the advice of the Network members and get rid of Dr. Simon.

Garner said, “As of now, no he is not leaving.”

“The president hasn’t expressed any explicit date for [Dr. Simon’s] departure. He doesn’t have a date for Dr. Simon to be leaving. ” Garner told RJ during a Dec. 5 phone interview.

Commissioner Jerry “The Iceman” Butler proposed to head the Committee of Health
McNary said that most of the members of the proposed Bureau of Health Trusteeship would be healthcare professionals who would pick the CEO to run the system. A representative from the Institute of Medicine of Chicago, the Illinois Public Health Association, the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, The Chicago Department of Public Health, and the Cook County Physicians Association.

A member from the Chicago Federation Heath Labor would represent the frontline workers “to empower them and the patients they serve.” And two cook county commissioners would oversee the committees of finance and health. Commissioner John Daley would be chairman of the Committee of Finance and Commissioner Jerry “The Iceman” Butler would be the person in charge of the Committee of Health.

Three of the now-shuttered clinics were located in Commissioner Butler’s district.

Those clinics –the Hayes Center, Beethoven Child Health Center and DuSable Adolescent Health Center – accounted for 10 percent of the County’s entire clinic visits, according to data by the National Nurses Organizing Committee-California Nurses Association.

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