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Health boss defends tenure
Winship calls self a `political football'

Friday, November 03, 2006
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Dr. Daniel Winship, who was forced to resign as Cook County's health chief, said Thursday he was a "political football" who came into a system with a lot of problems but leaves after two years proud of his accomplishments.

Winship, 73, said he "took it very badly" when County Board President Bobbie Steele said on a radio program that "liars" were running the system. She did not name names.
"I thought it was very direct. It bothered me very much," Winship said Thursday in an interview. He said Steele later told him that she didn't mean him.

Winship's lawyer, Laurel Bellows, said they were contemplating legal action largely based on the "liar" comment.

At a news conference Thursday, Steele said, "I was not specifically pointing out Dr. Winship."

Winship will be replaced by two county health veterans, Dr. Carolyn Lopez and Dr. Linda Rae Murray, who will jointly run the system for at least the next month. Steele's four-month interim term as board president expires Dec. 4.

Commissioner Tony Peraica, the Republican candidate in Tuesday's election for board president, said Thursday that he would conduct a national search to find a health-care expert to run the system. Chicago Ald. Todd Stroger (8th), the Democratic candidate, said change was needed at the health system and he, too, would conduct a search for a new leader.

Winship came under pressure from the County Board for not collecting enough patient revenues to make up for the county's declining Medicaid funding. The revenue shortfall exceeds $80 million for the fiscal year, which ends Nov. 30.

Winship said the county's projections for those patient revenues were "optimistic," although collections mechanisms have been put in place that should benefit his successors.

Steele praised Winship for improvements he made to the county's pharmacy system, including a new mail-order option. She also noted that he reduced the vacancy rate for nurses, which Winship said is now well below the national average.

Asked what Winship did wrong, Steele said: "It's not a matter of doing anything wrong. It's a matter of needing new leadership."

Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) said Winship came into a difficult situation under former President John Stroger and did not have a free hand.

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