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County hospital mess needs treatment

Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County commissioners had a chance Monday to follow up on an excellent six-month study on county hospital operations -- and they blew it. Instead of engaging in a useful discussion about the report's findings -- particularly, that there is too much patronage and an archaic government structure -- commissioners running the hospital committee knocked down questions and attacked the messenger.
Commissioner Robert Maldonado was more interested in the credentials of the authors than their recommendation that county hospitals be run by health-care professionals, as just about every other public hospital is run. Who are you, Maldonado seemed to be asking, to lecture us? Commissioner Jerry Butler wouldn't even let colleagues Mike Quigley and Forrest Claypool ask questions about patronage.
The report from the Institute for Health Care Studies at Northwestern University found that the county hospital system is facing an impending crisis because of a variety of factors, and that the County Board is ill-equipped for the challenge. Caretaker President Bobbie Steele acknowledges that something needs to change. But it's telling that former President John Stroger refused to meet with the study's authors, and it's telling that others who are running Cook County view the report with such disdain. "Crisis?" they say, "What crisis?" And then they stick their heads back into the sand.


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