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Provident Hospital equipment not up to date

Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Provident Hospital is using medical equipment that's 20 years old in some cases, and Cook County may need to spend big money for new equipment within the next few years, officials said.
Much of the equipment is what was in place when the county took over the then-struggling South Side community hospital and reopened it in 1993. Now it is out of date and "patched up," according to Commissioner Bobbie Steele (D-Chicago), who sits on a committee overseeing Provident.

"That equipment is used up," Steele said. "You can't even find parts for much of it anymore."

Although hospital officials requested $7 million in new equipment for 2006, the budget calls for only $807,850 to be spent on capital improvements at Provident this year. The hospital, 500 E. 51st St., Chicago, gets about 52,000 emergency room visits per year.

Cook County budgeted $12 million for capital expenses throughout the county health system this year, health bureau chief Daniel Winship said, and Provident's share has not yet been decided.

Steele said hospital officials have estimated what it would cost to replace all the equipment, but hospital officials refused to release that estimate Tuesday.

"(Chief operating officer John) Fairman wants to have a completed audit of all equipment, which will take three to four weeks," county spokeswoman Chinta Strausberg said. "He wants to be thorough."

Worried doctors raised the issue in February, according to a report from the joint conference committee overseeing the hospital.

At a committee meeting Feb. 8, Dr. Gayle Kates, president of the hospital's medical staff, said "numerous problems result which affect patient care when there is a lack of equipment, outdated equipment or equipment being used which is not up to current standards."

For example, the warmers used for newborns are the ones that were in place when the county took over and do not work up to modern standards, Kates said.

"The old equipment has the potential to do harm relative to maintaining or monitoring that baby's temperature," Kates said.

The hospital has no MRI machine, as most hospitals do.

"Whether that will be on the wish list remains to be seen," Strausberg said.

Steele said hospital officials assured her anyone needing care the hospital couldn't provide would be referred to the better-equipped Stroger Hospital. But Stroger Hospital already is overcrowded, and patients often have to wait all day for treatment.

"What they said is, right now, we're able to accommodate our patients without any delay in service or quality in service," Steele said. "The big question is how long we'll be able to do this. We've patched up and improvised."

Steele said the hospital is playing catch-up, recently starting repairs on the hospital's seven elevators, only two of which were working.

"Fairman has been trying to prioritize equipment, and we're going to have to replace some of it."

Finance committee chairman John Daley (D-Chicago) and health committee chairman Jerry Butler (D-Chicago) both said the county board has not put enough money in the budget for both Provident and Oak Forest hospitals and will need to make substantial investments at those facilities soon.

"If that equipment is 20 years old, it's this board's fault," Butler said. "We have treated Provident Hospital like it didn't exist."

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