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Two Articles on Cook County Health Issues

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)
December 2, 2009

Article 1, from Chicago Current, presents a recap of Tuesday county board vote to override President Stroger’s veto and move forward with a tax rollback - with comments from health system CEO William Foley. Article two is a Chicago Tribune opinion piece on preserving the old county hospital building as the office location for the health system.

Cook Commissioners override sales tax veto

  • By Alex Parker 
  • December 01, 2009 @ 1:37 PM
  • Cook County Commissioners dealt President Todd Stroger a blow today, overriding his veto and sustaining the rollback of the one half percent sales tax that they said harmed county residents, slowed business and is illogical in a bad economy.

    Commissioners took advantage of a new state law requiring only 11 votes to override the veto, instead of the previous 14. Twelve commissioners voted in favor of the rollback, which will create a hole in the 2011 budget of between $188 million and $200 million.

    The tax will be reduced beginning in July.

    Stroger and his allies, Commissioners Jerry Butler, Joan Murphy, Deborah Sims and William Beavers warned that repealing the tax would have devastating consequences on the county health system, which would lose between $75 million and $80 million in county subsidies next year.

    “There’s not a lot of fat in our budget in this fiscal year,” health system CEO William Foley said at a press conference after the vote. In order to plug the hole, Foley said the health system board would consider all options, including closing Provident and Oak Forest Hospitals. It will likely layoff up to 1,250 employees, in addition to roughly 1,000 who have been or will be laid off between now and the spring.

    “We’re looking at everything,” he said. “We will not be able to treat as many people. This will go against the goal of our strategic plan, which is to increase access (to health care).” Read the full article

    Chicago's Ellis Island (Tribune Editorial) 

    Through much of the 20th century, when de facto segregation excluded poor minorities from numerous upscale Chicago hospitals, thousands of America's top physicians offered world-class care to millions of the city's newcomers -- Eastern Europeans, African-Americans, Latinos, anyone in need. Cook County Hospital, the Beaux Arts gem on West Harrison Street, delivered their babies by the tens of thousands -- the future Mayor Harold Washington included.

    Cook County Board members mothballed the nearly century-old structure after completion in late 2002 of its replacement, Stroger Hospital. Now the County Board can give this aging but solid landmark to Chicago's poor -- it's been called our Ellis Island -- new life as rehabbed and badly needed office space for the county's health system.

    We hope today's board members appreciate the rich history they can preserve, and the sensible economics they can embrace. The opportunity to achieve both goals has just landed in their laps.

    A county-ordered study by real estate analysts Jones Lang LaSalle recommends modernizing the old hospital to replace the county health system's current headquarters, a dilapidated former nursing dormitory that's begging to be demolished. The county's conversion of the old hospital to administrative space would offer "the highest and best market use and lowest overall cost," says the study, which also evaluated conversions to a hotel, rental housing, condos, senior housing and other possible improvements for the Near West Side's medical district. Read the full article