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Commissioners to fight on for old County Hospital

Friday, October 14, 2005
Daily Southtown
by JONATHAN LIPMAN

Commissioners trying to preserve the old Cook County
Hospital vowed Thursday to keep fighting, despite a
consultant's recommendation to tear down the
90-year-old building.

"I think the votes are there for preservation," said
Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who has led the fight to
save the brick and terra-cotta building on Harrison
Street.

The County Board's Health and Hospitals Committee met
for several hours Thursday to discuss the report from
U.S. Equities, which charts a 10-year, $792 million
expansion and renovation plan for Stroger Hospital and
the surrounding buildings. The report cost $1.4
million.

Building the space for additional hospital beds and
emergency room stations needed would increase the
county's debt payments by $60 million a year,
officials said. The county faces a $300 million budget
deficit for 2006, and commissioners said they weren't
sure the county could afford to build.

In urging a quick demolition, County Board President
John Stroger has repeatedly said it costs $500,000 a
month to leave the old building standing. It needs to
be guarded and heated to prevent the pipes from
bursting.

Emergency room overflowing

U.S. Equities CEO Robert Winslow said Thursday the
costs are really $29,000 a month.

The $500,000 figure was accurate, Stroger spokeswoman
Caryn Stancik said, but Stroger's office wasn't
informed the costs changed after the county shut off
utilities to the old children's hospital.

Suffredin, Commissioner Tony Peraica and others also
questioned the consultants' recommendation to tear
down the building when it would only cost $11 million
more to rehabilitate it.

"We really are very close on the economic estimate of
things," Suffredin said.

Commissioners did not vote on the plan, nor has
Stroger said whether he plans to push for the
expansion soon. Stancik said Health and Hospitals
Committee Chairman Jerry Butler will decide what the
next step is. Butler, a close ally of Stroger, was not
available for comment.

Health services chief Daniel Winship urged
commissioners to take overcrowding at Stroger Hospital
seriously. The medical-surgical unit is operating at
122 percent capacity, forcing patients to wait up to
48 hours for a bed, and the emergency room is
overflowing.

"The emergency room expansion is crucial," he said.
"It was planned for 91,000 visits per year, but by the
time we opened [in 2002], we were already a little
past that. ... There were 130,000 visits in 2004."




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