Photo Illustration: Paula Friedrich, Getty Images/WBEZ
Uninsured? Your doctor might send you to Cook County's health system, which provides most of the so-called charity care in Cook County. Doctors have told WBEZ that patients sometimes show up with discharge papers or even printed Google maps with directions to John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital.
When the stress from work gets to be too much and the stabbing migraines set in, Consuelo Vargas takes a day off.
This happens sometimes once a month, she said. Vargas is an emergency room nurse at the Cook County-run John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital, which has the busiest ER in Illinois.
“Nurses are burnt out like never before,” said Vargas, who has worked at Stroger for nearly six years.
“Sometimes after you’ve worked 12 hours doing the job of two and three people, the next day you have nothing to give,” she told WBEZ recently. “And you’re not doing anybody a favor by coming in exhausted. That’s when you’re going to make a medication error. That’s when you’re going to make a charting error, and someone’s going to get hurt.”
Cook County government’s public health system, known as Cook County Health, treats the most vulnerable people — patients who are already really sick with conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes by the time they show up to see a doctor. It’s historically been a destination for the uninsured and, increasingly, for people who can’t afford the insurance they have.