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Patients say county pharmacy has improved

Friday, January 27, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Waiting times for prescriptions have improved dramatically at Cook County's Stroger and Provident Hospitals, patients said Thursday.
Six months ago, patients talked about waiting weeks for a prescription order to be ready then standing in line for hours to pick up the medication.
County health officials have told commissioners that improvements in staffing and procedures and full implementation of the county's mail-order pharmacy program have eliminated the long waits.
Patients agreed during a hearing in a Stroger Hospital meeting room called by Cook County commissioner Roberto Maldonado (D-Chicago).
"I have waited here for hours, literally hours, just to get to the window and find out the medicine wasn't ready," Stroger Hospital patient Karon Brooks said. "That went on for months. ... Last time I was here, my hair turned colors I got in so fast. It was ready, it was three minutes."
Provident Hospital patient Ameda Burton walks with a cane and said she used to fight over empty seats in the pharmacy waiting room.
"It was terrible," Burton said. "They had lines running to the outside of the building and there was no place to sit. Now, Provident has improved so much. You can walk right in, there's almost no line."
Health bureau spokeswoman Rendy Jones said the bureau's mail-order program is now sending out 4,500 prescriptions per day and has taken much of the pressure off the overworked pharmacies.
An internal task force also found ways to streamline pharmacy procedures, such as giving patients leaving the emergency room their medication directly, rather then sending them to the pharmacy to pick it up.
Two patients said conditions had improved, but they still had problems with the pharmacy mail-order program. One woman, speaking through a Spanish translator, said she'd been unable to get her diabetes medication for weeks.
"I was expecting my medication at the beginning of the month and it's past the 20th," Maria Guadalupe Delgado said. "They sent my medications to an address that ends in 'place' and I'm on a 'street.' ... I've called three times."
Hospital staff fixed the problem before Delgado left the meeting. She tearfully accepted a paper bag with her medication and thanked health bureau chief Daniel Winship.
Commissioners said they were heartened to hear major problems at the pharmacy seem to have been fixed.
"The next question is how strong are these improvements?" Maldonado said. "Are they sustainable?"
Several hospital officials gave ideas for further changes, such as faster medication delivery for patients scheduled to leave the hospital. Winship promised to consider those and other changes.
"We have no intention of letting it lapse back into what it was," Winship said.


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